Column: Dodgers blink first and collapse late in series-tying loss to Padres
The Dodgers blinked first. The Dodgers blinked furiously. The Dodgers blinked recklessly.
The Dodgers blinked so rapidly, their season has been rendered red and swollen and beyond painful.
In the sixth inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, the score was tied, the roar was deafening, the showdown was set, something had to give.
It was the Dodgers. They gave, and gave, and gave.
They gave Padres the go-ahead run after a booted grounder by Trea Turner, then gave themselves up on four late failed late rallies to eventually lose 5-3 in a series that is now evened at one game apiece.
“We weren’t clean,” said Dodger manager Dave Roberts, and he wasn’t talking about the dirt caked on the white uniforms that trudged away from a silent Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers struggle to generate offense in a 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. The series is tied 1-1, with Game 3 in San Diego on Friday.
Because this is a best-of-five series, there is a chance the Dodgers might not play another game at Chavez Ravine this season.
The next two duels are at San Diego’s Petco Park, and the Dodgers’ thin starting rotation renders the situation problematic at best.
In Friday’s Game 3 they will start Tony Gonsolin, who has pitched once since Aug. 23 and is still recovering from a forearm injury. Then in Saturday’s Game 4, they will start Tyler Anderson who, despite going 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA, still has the experience of just one career postgame start.
“One-one, going back home, that’s huge,” said the Padres’ Manny Machado.
The excitement over the Dodgers’ resilient Game 1 victory now indeed fades into worry over what comes next. Whatever happens, the Dodgers will have to be better than they were in the final hours of a sullen Wednesday night.
“Now it’s a best-of-three series,” said Roberts, words Dodgers fans never wanted to hear.
The only beauty in the late darkness occurred in the eighth inning, when a goose suddenly alighted on the Dodger Stadium right-center field grass then flew around while briefly avoiding groundskeeper capture.
But, face it, the only way that goose could have symbolized the Dodgers effort is if it had laid an egg.
“You just look at the game, and there were a couple of opportunities …to push a run across to tie the game, let alone to potentially take the lead, and we couldn’t do that,” said Roberts. “It just — defensively it just wasn’t clean either.
After Clayton Kershaw kept the score at 3-all after five innings, the Padres took a 4-3 lead against Brusdar Graterol in the sixth inning on the botched grounder by Trea Turner and an RBI single by Jurickson Profar.
“Hit a little bit softer than I thought, tried going more of it with my hands at the last second to try and be aggressive toward it,” said Turner, who quickly went from hero to goat after his third-inning homer had given the Dodgers an early lead.”
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The damage was done, but the Dodgers still had four more chances. Turns out, they made the least of them.
They should have at least tied the game in the sixth after Will Smith led off with a grounder off the glove of second baseman Jake Cronenworth and Max Muncy followed with a line drive off the base of the right-field wall. But, while Smith ran to third on the drive, Muncy inexplicably stopped at first.
“I thought he was going to catch it,” said Muncy. “And I wasn’t sure if [Smith] was going to third or not.”
Roberts said Muncy simply got fooled by Soto.
“I think the deke got him,” said Roberts.
With no outs, it seems like a good time for a safety squeeze bunt to score at least one run. But Justin Turner swung away, and struck out, then Gavin Lux grounded into a double play to end the inning.
“That was the play of the game … got the momentum back in our dugout,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin.
Then, in the seventh, they seemingly rallied again, but failed again. Cody Bellinger, with four strikeouts in his previous five series at-bats, lofted an opposite-field single into left. Mookie Betts, who had yet to record a hit in the series, lined a ball to center field that scooted under a diving Trent Grisham for a double. But with runners on second and third, Trea Turner grounded out and Smith flied out to Grisham.
It was more of the same frustration in the eighth after the Padres had extended the lead with a Cronenworth homer against Blake Treinen. With two out, Lux singled and Trayce Thompson walked. But against hard-throwing reliever Josh Hader, Austin Barnes was inexplicably sent up to pinch hit instead of Chris Taylor, and Barnes flied out.
“I just felt that Austin’s short swing, it’s a flat path, Hader throws the four-seam right fastball, C.T. has a swing that’s more uphill,” explained Roberts.
To which many Dodger fans are surely screaming, “C.T. hit a walk-off home run in last year’s wild-card game! Let him hit!”
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Finally, in the ninth, with the Dodgers down to their last strike, Freddie Freeman lined a double off the right-center field wall, but Smith flied out.
“We had some good situations in our favor there and we didn’t get the job done,” said Muncy. “It’s a little frustrating.”
The ending overshadowed what was pretty decent duel between Kershaw and the Padres’ Yu Darvish, a battle between two guys with plenty of Chavez Ravine playoff ghosts.
The last time Kershaw pitched at Dodger Stadium in a playoff game with fans in the stands, it was one of the low points of a postseason career filled with potholes.
Remember? In October 2019, Dave Roberts brought him to pitch the eighth inning against the heart of the Washington Nationals’ order with the Dodgers leading 3-1 in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS.
Oh, now you remember. Anthony Rendon, home run. Juan Soto, home run. Game tied, and eventually lost by Dodgers bullpen when Joe Kelly allowed a 10th-inning grand slam to Howie Kendrick to abruptly end the Dodgers season.
And the last time Darvish pitched in postseason game at Dodger Stadium? Of course, you remember. He collapsed for the Dodgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series against the cheating Houston Astros. The memories were everywhere, and the baseballs were flying.
When Kershaw left after five innings, he had allowed three runs on six hits, a line regrettably fitting of his 4.19 career ERA in 37 postseason games spanning 20 series.
When Darvish left after five innings, he had allowed three runs on seven hits, better than in 2017, but not much.
Regardless, entering the sixth inning, the two veterans had set their respective teams up for a four-inning showdown.
The Dodgers blinked first, and, on a night that ended up being for the birds, Dodgers fans can only hope their goose hasn’t been cooked.
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