Dodgers offense’s inability to show up doomed them in NLDS

Dodgers' Chris Taylor holds bat and touches shirt after striking out.
Dodgers’ Chris Taylor reacts after striking out during the second inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Saturday in San Diego.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Freddie Freeman shot a double down the first-base line with runners on second and third and one out in the third inning Saturday night, snapping a brutal streak in which the Dodgers had gone 0 for 20 with runners in scoring position.

If the worm hadn’t turned in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres, perhaps it was beginning to loosen up those longitudinal muscles for a spin around the soggy basepaths in Petco Park.

“When Freddie doubled early in the game to drive in two runs, it felt like that maybe was a hit that would break it open for us,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “But it didn’t happen. The whole series, I think we did a good job of setting the table. We just never really got the big hit.”


Bullpen mismanagement was the biggest factor in Saturday night’s sudden death of a once-promising season in which the Dodgers won a franchise-record 111 games but were bounced from the playoffs by the Padres, who scored five runs in the seventh inning for a dramatic 5-3 comeback victory in Game 4.

But over the course of the series, it was the inability of baseball’s best offense to perform even close to its regular-season standards that doomed the Dodgers.

A team that led the major leagues with 847 runs, an average of 5.3 per game, scored 12 runs in the NLDS, an average of three per game.

A team that led baseball with a .272 average with runners in scoring position hit .147 (five for 34) with 11 strikeouts with runners in scoring position against the Padres.

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A team that averaged 8.5 strikeouts per game during the regular season whiffed 44 times in the NLDS, an average of 11 per game.

“I really don’t know why,” Freeman said, when asked why the offense dried up. “I’m sure there was a three-game span during the regular season when we didn’t do so well either. It’s just unfortunate that it happened in October.”


The Dodgers did well to grab an early lead Saturday night on Freeman’s clutch two-run double off Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove, but they missed several opportunities to build an even bigger cushion.

Justin Turner walked and Trayce Thompson singled to put two on with one out in the sixth inning, but Chris Taylor was rung up on a 93-mph fastball that replays showed was outside — the left fielder’s third strikeout of the game — and Gavin Lux struck out on a 93-mph fastball up in the zone to end the inning.

The Dodgers downshifted into small-ball mode to load the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh off reliever Steven Wilson when Mookie Betts walked, Trea Turner pushed a bunt single toward first base and Freeman was hit by a pitch.

Will Smith lined a sacrifice fly to left for a 3-0 lead. San Diego manager Bob Melvin summoned left-hander Tim Hill to face the left-handed-hitting Max Muncy. Trea Turner and Freeman pulled off a double steal — with no throw — on Hill’s first pitch to put runners on second and third with one out.

But Muncy struck out swinging on a 92-mph sinker, and Justin Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.

“There was an opportunity to tack on, we couldn’t do that, and it ended up costing us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “You saw [the Padres] kind of being able to get hits with guys in scoring position to kind of scratch and claw their way back into the game and tack on. We just couldn’t do that.”

Dodgers' Trea Turner bunts for a single during the seventh inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres.
Dodgers’ Trea Turner bunts for a single during the seventh inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Saturday in San Diego.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The Padres rallied for five runs off Dodgers relievers Tommy Kahnle, Yency Almonte and Alex Vesia in the bottom of the seventh. The Dodgers went down in order against flame-throwing right-hander Robert Suarez in the eighth. They didn’t stand a chance against left-hander Josh Hader in the ninth.

With a hard rain falling, the top of the mighty Dodgers order — Betts, Trea Turner and Freeman — all struck out, touching off a wild celebration among the Padres and their drenched fans that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

“Our goal every year is to win a World Series in October,” Taylor said as players exchanged hugs and said their goodbyes in a silent visiting clubhouse. “It’s not to win 111 games, or to win our division, or to win the most games. It’s to win the last game of the year. We didn’t do that, and it sucks.”

Taylor was an October hero last fall, batting .351 with a 1.202 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, four homers, four doubles and 12 RBIs in 11 playoff games, including a walk-off homer against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card game.

But he was slowed by neck stiffness in late September and early October and hadn’t played a game in two weeks when he returned to the lineup for Game 3. Taylor went 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in Games 3 and 4.


“I felt good physically, my neck wasn’t bothering me, I was healthy,” Taylor said. “Obviously, I didn’t play the way I wanted to, but it’s baseball. It’s a hard game. I was getting frustrated at myself for not playing better.

“The game is tough. You’re facing good pitching. You gotta give them some credit, but yeah, I did not play the way I wanted to individually. So it’s a tough loss for this whole team.”

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Freeman, who hit .357 (five for 14) with a homer, three doubles and three RBIs, and Trea Turner, who hit .333 (six for 18) with two homers, two doubles and two RBIs, were the only Dodgers who had good offensive series.

Betts hit .143 (two for 14) with a double and an RBI. Smith hit .188 (three for 16) with two doubles and two RBIs. Thompson and Justin Turner both hit .154 (two for 13). Cody Bellinger hit .143 (one for seven), and the former NL most valuable player was benched for Game 4. Joey Gallo didn’t even get an at-bat.

“The playoffs in baseball are tough, and in a short series, a five-game series, it’s always a flip of the coin,” Justin Turner said. “It’s whoever gets the big hits, and they got the big hits. You can point your fingers to whatever you want, but the bottom line is we didn’t get the job done. We got beat.”