Dodgers lose to Reds in potential wild-card preview, fall two games behind in West
The Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds opened a three-game series Friday night that doubled as a possible National League wild-card game preview. For the Reds, a club fighting for any postseason invitation, playing in that game would represent an accomplishment. For the Dodgers, the defending World Series champions with the second-best record in the majors, it could become a nightmare as displayed Friday.
The Reds rode two hits from the bottom of their lineup, Luis Castillo muzzled the Dodgers’ offense for 6 1/3 innings, and the Dodgers ran out of outs against a susceptible bullpen in a swift 3-1 loss at Great American Ball Park.
The result, produced in just 2 hours 34 minutes, ended the Dodgers’ six-game winning streak and dropped them two games behind the San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West with 14 games remaining after the Giants rallied to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-5 in 11 innings.
If the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants finish the regular season with the same record, they’ll play a one-game tiebreaker Oct. 4 at Oracle Park.
“I don’t think we need any reminders,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We know how important every game is.”
Castillo, whose 15 losses lead the NL, was dominant for Cincinnati, compiling 10 strikeouts to two walks. He held the Dodgers (94-54) to five hits working a plus 90-mph changeup off a 100-mph fastball. He walked off the mound to a standing ovation after throwing his 111th pitch.
He faced a Dodgers lineup that was already without outfielders AJ Pollock (hamstring) and Chris Taylor (neck) before Gavin Lux was scratched with a right forearm injury minutes before first pitch. Lux was slated to play left field and bat eighth.
Matt Beaty replaced him in both spots, making his first start with the Dodgers since Aug. 17. He delivered an RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning for the Dodgers’ run.
Highlights from the Dodgers’ 3-1 road loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
After the game, Roberts said Lux was hit by a pitch from a pitching machine. X-rays were negative. Roberts said Lux won’t start Saturday or Sunday, but he could be available off the bench.
Kyle Farmer, like Lux, was once a Dodgers prospect. He was the least accomplished of the four players the Dodgers traded to Cincinnati in December 2018. The other three — Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood — drew the headlines. The Dodgers received prospects Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs and veteran right-hander Homer Bailey in the deal. The Reds sought firepower for a return to contention. The Dodgers wanted to offload salary.
Farmer is the only player in the trade remaining on either team. Puig played in Mexico this year. Kemp is out of baseball. Wood, after returning to the Dodgers last season, pitches for the Giants. Bailey was promptly waived by the Dodgers after the deal. Downs was part of the package for Mookie Betts in February 2020. Gray was sent to the Washington Nationals in July as part of the trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
The Dodgers, ultimately, won the trade resoundingly, but Farmer at least helped the Reds (77-71) win Friday.
A former catcher, Farmer made his 104th start at shortstop this season. He struck out in his first at-bat against Walker Buehler. He lined a double in his second plate appearance and scored on Tucker Barnhart’s single in the fifth inning. One inning later, he cracked a hanging slider from Buehler for a two-out, two-run double to give the Reds a 3-0 lead.
Buehler — a Lexington, Ky., native — was otherwise effective pitching in front of a group of family and friends. He gave up three runs and six hits across six innings and exited with a 2.39 ERA. He has logged at least six innings in 28 of his 30 starts this season.
“I felt good,” Buehler said. “A couple of bad pitches in a spot that you can’t make them, and Farmer took advantage of it.”
In the end, it perhaps wasn’t the pitching matchup for a potential wild-card game between the teams — the Dodgers could start Scherzer, while the Reds have Wade Miley, Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray as options — but the game showcased why the Dodgers are clawing to capture their ninth straight division title and avoid the one-game playoff on Oct. 6.
A result like Friday’s and their World Series hopes end in a flash. But it’s mid-September. They’ll be back on the field Saturday trying to dig out of a slightly deeper hole.
Chris Taylor returning Saturday; AJ Pollock progressing
Roberts told reporters that Taylor, who hasn’t started since last week because of a neck injury, is expected to start Saturday.
Taylor later confirmed the plan. The All-Star explained that he had been dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck for some time before diving for a ball in the last game he played Sept. 10 against the San Diego Padres. He said the dive created whiplash that aggravated the injury. He pinch-hit in the seventh inning Friday and flied out in his first appearance in a week.
Taylor’s return will bolster an outfield corps that already had been without Pollock, one of the most productive hitters in the majors since the beginning of July, before his injury.
Pollock suffered a right hamstring strain Sept. 4. Roberts said he expected Pollock to travel to Arizona to play in simulated games at the club’s spring training facility in the coming days. He could then be activated from the injured list after the Dodgers’ three-game series next week against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.
Blake Treinen developed a new slider in spring training and it has helped make him a dominant set-up man for the Dodgers.
Tony Gonsolin to follow Clayton Kershaw
Roberts said Tony Gonsolin will “piggyback” Clayton Kershaw’s start Sunday, meaning he will follow Kershaw to pitch multiple innings.
The manager explained that the team’s days off Thursday and Monday allow the team to use a four-man rotation on regular rest. The Dodgers will then return to a five-man rotation.
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