Column: Feast-or-famine offense makes an ugly return in Dodgers’ loss to Giants
On the same night the San Francisco Giants returned to the playoffs, another constant of Octobers past resurfaced.
The All-or-Nothing Dodgers are back.
They’re the Dodgers who used to whack a bunch of homers but couldn’t score any other way.
They’re the Dodgers who used to break the hearts of their fans every postseason, inevitably failed at some point by their swing-for-the-fences approach.
The days of feast or famine are here again.
In Game 1 of their National League Division Series against the Giants at Oracle Park on Friday night, the Dodgers didn’t homer. They didn’t score. And they lost 4-0.
In the first postseason meeting between the Dodgers and rival Giants, San Francisco and its thirsty fans claimed a 4-0 win in Game 1 of the NLDS.
When their opponents beat them at their own game by smacking three home runs, they didn’t have any answers.
“We didn’t make adjustments,” manager Dave Roberts said.
The Dodgers struck out 11 times. They didn’t draw a single walk. They collected only five hits, two by leadoff hitter Mookie Betts and two by No. 5 hitter Will Smith. They looked helpless against Logan Webb, the inexperienced Giants starter who carved them up over 7 2/3 innings with his slider and changeup.
Two days earlier, in their win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card game, two home runs were responsible for the Dodgers’ entire run production.
The Dodgers created the illusion their offense had found its rhythm over their final homestand, as they scored an average of 7.8 runs in their last six games. But the numbers were deceiving.
They played a San Diego Padres team that had quit, and a Milwaukee Brewers team that had clinched the NL Central and was looking ahead to the matchup with the Atlanta Braves in the postseason.
The magnitude of Max Muncy’s absence from the middle of the Dodgers’ batting order was vividly on display in the Dodgers’ 4-0 playoff loss to the Giants.
And of the 47 runs the Dodgers scored in the homestand, 32 came via the home run.
These aren’t the Dodgers who won the World Series last year. Those Dodgers, the World Series champion Dodgers, excelled at situational hitting. They scored more two-out runs in the postseason than any team in history.
“Last year, we lived by the homer in the regular season, but I thought in the postseason we brought a different club, and we got deep into counts, took walks and used the whole field, kept the line moving, and you’re going to run into some homers that way,” Roberts said. “So I think that tonight … we just didn’t make an adjustment all night long. I thought we had the same club all night long and that was a driver. So, you got to kind of read and react sometimes.”
Roberts said he is optimistic the Dodgers can do that again this October.
Stringing together hits and manufacturing runs is hard to do with a lineup without any depth, however. The already-uneven roster constructed by Andrew Friedman was further diminished by an elbow injury to Max Muncy, who is expected to miss the entire postseason.
Against the Giants on Friday, the Dodgers twice had a runner on second base with one out.
Corey Seager reached base on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a throwing error by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford in the first inning.
The Los Angeles Dodgers take on the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 in the National League Division Series.
The next two batters, Trea Turner and Justin Turner, both grounded out.
Smith doubled in the seventh. Matt Beaty and Cody Bellinger followed with consecutive strikeouts.
The Dodgers’ Nos. 6, 7, 8 hitters — Beaty, Bellinger and AJ Pollock — were a combined 0 for 9 with five strikeouts.
Beaty had only 41 plate appearances after Aug. 1. Bellinger batted .165 in the regular season. Pollock is a career .162 hitter in the postseason.
Earlier in the day, former Dodgers utilityman Kiké Hernández was five for six with a home run and three runs batted in for the Boston Red Sox. Another player who departed the Dodgers as a free agent over the winter, Joc Pederson, homered for the Braves.
Roberts will attempt to jump-start the offense by starting Chris Taylor in center field. Bellinger, who played center field in Game 1, will move to first base, where Beaty played on Friday.
“Granted, Logan was really good, but outside of that, there were guys at the top and bottom that didn’t take good at-bats tonight,” Roberts said.
That has to change. Otherwise, this season will have a familiar ending — it just won’t be the ending from last year.
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