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Dodgers facing playoff elimination after another shutout loss to Giants

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VIDEO | 01:45
Max Scherzer, Albert Pujols and Dave Roberts on the Dodgers’ NLDS Game 3 loss

Dodgers players Max Scherzer and Albert Pujols, along with manager Dave Roberts, talk about the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss in NLDS Game 3 against the San Francisco Giants.

All Mookie Betts could do was scream, grab his bat off the ground by the barrel and chop at the air, incredulity sweeping through him and everyone else in blue.

He had just smashed a baseball 100.4 mph on a windproof line searching for a patch of grass in the seventh inning of Monday’s Game 3 of the National League Division Series. Steven Souza Jr., the tying run, already was halfway to third base. The Dodgers were poised to finally break through. The 53,299 people braving the stiff winds at Dodger Stadium were ready to burst. Brandon Crawford had another idea.

With a leap, the San Francisco Giants shortstop snagged the scalded baseball from the air and landed with the third out to stunned silence. The acrobatics rendered the batted ball’s .870 expected batting average moot. Crawford was precisely positioned. His timing was even better, and the Dodgers were left with nothing.

The Dodgers are staring at the cold reality of being one loss away from playoff elimination after another frustrating loss to the San Francisco Giants.

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“I was able to just jump,” Crawford said, “and hope that it goes in my glove.”

The catch was the difference in the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss as they dropped behind their storied rivals 2-1 in the best-of-five series. Now they must beat the 107-win team they failed to chase down for the NL West title in Game 4 on Tuesday to keep their hopes of winning back-to-back World Series alive. First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.

“Our focus has to turn to tomorrow,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Whatever it takes to win tomorrow. Then we’ll pick up the pieces after that.”

Roberts said the team had not yet decided on a starting pitcher. He didn’t rule out having Walker Buehler, the team’s Game 1 starter Friday, start on three days’ rest for the first time in his career.

Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer, left, looks back after allowing a solo home run to San Francisco's Evan Longoria.
Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer, left, looks back after allowing a solo home run to San Francisco’s Evan Longoria during the fifth inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“Everything is on the table,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers outhit the Giants five to three but were shut out for the second time in the series. The Giants mustered the big hit the Dodgers couldn’t in the fifth inning when Evan Longoria somehow managed to drive a fly ball through the thick wind for a home run off Max Scherzer. The Dodgers nearly matched it with their last chance.

Down to the last out in the ninth inning, Roberts chose Gavin Lux to pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot against Camilo Doval, the Giants’ hard-throwing rookie sensation. Doval was working on his first career two-inning save. Without the wind, he wouldn’t have recorded it.

Lux, a left-handed hitter, clubbed the second pitch of the at-bat, a 99.4-mph fastball, the other way to left-center field. The ball traveled 106.9 mph, hard enough for him and most other people in the park to assume he had tied the score. But the blast, like a few others Monday, died in the wind. It fell short of the warning track and landed in center fielder Steven Duggar’s glove. Lux stopped and stared into the outfield in disbelief. He was the last Dodger to leave the field.

“My stomach pretty much sank when he hit it,” Longoria said. “I couldn’t believe it didn’t go out. I guess it was our night.”

The series shifted from San Francisco to Los Angeles for Game 3, but the weather didn’t budge. Strong wind blowing from left to right made for a scene more common at old Candlestick Park than Dodger Stadium. Palm trees swayed. The two foul poles rocked back and forth. The light posts shook. Trash swirled, bits rising from the field to the reserve level. In the press box, ceiling panels bounced.

“I hardly even remember light breeze here most nights,” Crawford said. “So the wind was definitely pretty crazy tonight.”

Gusts reached 45 mph at first pitch. The wind was so stiff that it knocked Scherzer over while he wound up for his fourth delivery in the first inning.

“I didn’t realize how much the wind was going to affect me,” Scherzer said. “It was pushing me towards home plate.”

Evan Longoria is making the most of his long-awaited return to the playoffs, hitting a solo home run to lift the Giants to victory in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Scherzer threw 25 pitches in the first inning. The Giants had two runners reach base and fouled off several pitches. They challenged him. But Scherzer got Kris Bryant swinging for his third strikeout to maneuver free.

On the other side, Los Angeles didn’t have a runner reach base against former Dodger Alex Wood until Albert Pujols flared a leadoff single down the right-field line in the third inning. The husky 41-year-old, making his first playoff start since 2014 with the Angels, took second base on Scherzer’s sacrifice bunt and advanced to third base on a passed ball. He was left there when Betts popped out to end the inning.

Scherzer had settled down by then. He retired 11 of 12 Giants after Buster Posey’s single in the first inning and accumulated eight strikeouts through four innings. But he encountered turbulence in the fifth.

Longoria, leading off the frame, fell behind in the count 0-and-2 before fouling off two pitches. The next pitch was a 96-mph fastball over the plate. Longoria slashed it over the wall in left field, muting the crowd with the stunning power display.

Dodgers batter AJ Pollock leaves the field after popping out in the ninth inning against the Giants on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“I was trying to go fastball up, trying to get above the zone,” Scherzer said. “Probably didn’t get above the zone. But it is what it is. ... It sucks.”

To that point, the Dodgers’ only hit off Wood was Pujols’ single in the third inning. Wood worked around two walks in the fourth inning, inducing a fielder’s choice groundout to cease the threat. An inning later, Pujols, the oldest player to start a postseason game in Dodgers history, came through again, smashing a leadoff single through the left side. With it, Pujols became the oldest player with multiple hits in a playoff game since a 45-year-old Julio Franco in 2003.

Thirsting for a run, Roberts replaced Pujols with pinch-runner Billy McKinney. Pujols trotted off the field to an ovation. McKinney, meanwhile, finished his stretching routine at first base. He didn’t need one.

Will Smith flied out, Scherzer struck out failing to drop a sacrifice bunt and Betts grounded out to Crawford, who ranged to his left to make a difficult play look elementary. McKinney was left stranded.

Dodgers batter Gavin Lux reacts after flying out to end the game on Monday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Longoria’s blast would be Scherzer’s only blip.

The right-hander ended a clean night at 110 pitches. He recorded 10 strikeouts to become the first pitcher in playoff history to record double-digit strikeout games with three franchises (Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers). He gave up three hits and walked one, rebounding from three subpar starts after nine straight dominant outings to begin his Dodgers career.

“He threw a heck of a ballgame,” Roberts said.

It was the masterful October performance the Dodgers envisioned when they acquired him at the July 30 trade deadline. But the Dodgers needed a flawless one on a night when the wind howled and the stifled offense couldn’t catch a break.

Albert Pujols, who’s been a positive addition, got two hits in the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss in Game 3 of the NLDS. Could it be his last hurrah in the playoffs?


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