Dodgers waste Game 2 chances and move to the edge of another playoff collapse

Freddie Freeman takes a called third strike.
Freddie Freeman takes a called third strike to end the fifth inning during the Dodgers’ 4-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. The Dodgers trail the best-of-five series 0-2.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

Opportunity knocked and knocked and knocked Monday night.

Time after time, the Dodgers frustratingly failed to answer.

In a contest the club felt like it had to have, already trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks by a game in the National League Division Series, chances repeatedly arose for the Dodgers to erase an early deficit, avoid a daunting two-game hole in the best-of-five playoff series, and put themselves back on track for a deep October run.

Instead, they couldn’t capitalize, suffering a 4-2 loss in Game 2 of the NLDS that leaves them clinging to precarious little postseason life.


Game 3 will be Wednesday in Phoenix. And the Dodgers will be facing a scenario that seemed unfathomable entering this series: Win three straight games, or succumb to a second straight NLDS exit.

One year after a playoff loss to the Padres, the Dodgers are on the verge of another shocker after falling into an 0-2 hole against the Diamondbacks.

Oct. 9, 2023

“Our backs are against the wall,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve got to make some type of adjustments. We have no more margin.”

There is blame to go around for the Dodgers’ current predicament.

An already unconventional pitching plan has been torpedoed by two hapless starts, with Bobby Miller following Clayton Kershaw’s six-run, one-out debacle in Game 1 with a three-run, five-out clunker in Game 2.

The team’s superstar duo of Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman has gone missing, with the pair of MVP candidates managing just one hit (an infield single by Freeman in Monday’s first inning) and three walks from 13 total at-bats.

And, in an ominously familiar turn of events, no one else on the club’s 100-win roster — which outpaced the Diamondbacks by 16 games in the regular season, making them universal favorites in this week’s series — has been able to pick up the slack.

“We have to battle back,” Betts said. “We have to throw a punch at some point.”

Just like in Game 1, it was the Diamondbacks who landed Monday’s initial blow.

With Miller struggling to find the strike zone in his first career playoff start, Arizona took a markedly more selective approach than it had two days before.

Bobby Miller walks off the mound.
Dodgers starting pitcher Bobby Miller walks off the mound after being pulled by manager Dave Roberts in the second inning Monday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Leadoff hitter Corbin Carroll worked a full-count walk by laying off all six pitches he saw. Ketel Marte followed with a bunt single, putting Miller, the 24-year-old rookie the Dodgers hoped would provide some length Monday, under immediate stress.

Christian Walker opened the scoring on a sacrifice fly to center field, hitting a deep drive that James Outman robbed with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Diamondbacks didn’t relent from there, capitalizing on a stolen base from Tommy Pham by scoring one run on a grounder — which might have been an inning-ending double-play had Pham stayed at first — then another on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s two-out single to take a quick 3-0 lead.

“Obviously I didn’t do a good job of working through it today,” Miller said. “I just felt I got a little jumpy out there, caused the command to be a little worse.”

Desperate to keep the deficit from growing — and following through on his promise Sunday to “manage Game 2 like it’s Game 7” — Roberts then got aggressive with the bullpen.

VIDEO | 01:35
Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Bobby Miller talk about losing NLDS Game 2

With two on and two outs in the second, he summoned typical set-up man Brusdar Graterol, who promptly ended the threat by getting Pham to ground out.

Then, Roberts sent Graterol back to the mound in both the third and fourth innings — the first time Graterol pitched across three different innings in an outing in his MLB career — before summoning fellow high-leverage arms Ryan Brasier, Joe Kelly and Evan Phillips behind him.

Together, the group gave up just one run in 7⅓ innings.

“I felt at that point in time we couldn’t afford to go down 4-0,” Roberts said. “I wanted to give our team a chance to extend the game.”

Indeed, the bullpen performance gave the Dodgers some temporary life.

In the fourth inning, the team’s lineup finally got on the board, when J.D. Martinez hammered a solo home run to right field.

J.D. Martinez hits a home run.
J.D. Martinez hits a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Diamondbacks in Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

From there, the Dodgers had ample opportunities to complete the comeback, bringing the tying run to the plate in each of the next four innings.

“We had a good gameplan, we gave ourselves the opportunities,” Freeman said.

Alas, he added after the team went one for six with runners in scoring position and stranded seven men on base, “we just couldn’t get the hit.”

The most frustrating sequence unfolded in the fifth.

In a situation the Dodgers couldn’t have scripted better, Betts and Freeman strolled to the plate against Arizona starter Zac Gallen — a Cy Young Award contender who had struggled in two regular-season meetings with the Dodgers this year — with two runners on and only one out.

Chavez Ravine rose to its feet. A building wave of momentum felt as though it would finally crest.

Instead, in a sequence indicative of the Dodgers’ offensive incompetency in these two games, both superstars failed to deliver.

Betts hit a weak grounder up the middle for a fielder’s choice, part of a hitless performance that dropped him to three-for-his-last-34 in postseason play, dating back to 2021.

Ryan Thompson pumps his fist and shouts.
Arizona Diamondback pitcher Ryan Thompson celebrates after getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning against the Dodgers.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Freeman then struck out looking, whiffing on a 1-and-1 cutter over the plate before freezing on a full-count curveball — the third-straight Gallen had thrown — for a called third strike that retired the side.

“Three straight [curveballs], you’re not usually used to that,” Freeman said. “But I mean, it’s not about that. It’s about the 1-1 cutter that I missed … That will not make me sleep tonight.”

The sixth inning saw another prime chance wasted.

Back-to-back singles chased Gallen from the game. Then his replacement, left-hander Andrew Saalfrank, loaded the bases with a walk to Chris Taylor before giving up a run on a Kiké Hernández infield single — a pair of pinch-hit at-bats that, after Gurriel Jr. hit a homer the inning prior, trimmed the deficit back to two.

For a brief moment, belief began swirling through Dodger Stadium.

Once again, however, it didn’t last.

Outman whiffed on a low sinker for the second out. Then, with right-hander Ryan Thompson on the mound, left-handed bench bat Kolten Wong replaced Miguel Rojas and grounded out to first, yet another at-bat that ended on a chase outside the strike zone.


“I didn’t love the pitch selection,” Roberts said of his team’s approach in key situations. “There were some balls out of the zone, and there were some borderline balls or pitches that we offered at that, we didn’t give ourselves a chance to get into counts.”

The final indignities came in the seventh and eighth innings, when Freeman and Taylor hit into double plays, extinguishing any hope of a late-game comeback.

“We had it,” Freeman said. “We had it going in the fifth and sixth. We just didn’t capitalize on those opportunities.”

The Dodgers aren’t completely dead.

Kiké Hernández falls to his knees and looks down.
Dodgers shortstop Kiké Hernández reacts after failing to throw out a Diamondbacks batter at first base in the ninth inning of Game 2 on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

There is some precedent for teams overcoming two-game holes in best-of-five series; it has happened 10 out of 88 times previously, and twice in 16 occasions under the 2-2-1 division series format in which the home team lost the first two games.

Roberts and his players remained steadfast as well, bemoaning their missed opportunities but not yet abandoning all hope for an improbable turnaround.


“We’ve won three games in a row. We’re very familiar with this ballclub,” Roberts said. “They’re playing good baseball. We’ve got to find a way to flip the script.”

Monday, however, offered that exact chance. To mount a quick response. To stage a late-game rally. To believe that it wasn’t too late for the team to bounce back.

Instead, they let a winnable game slip through their fingers.

Opportunity knocked. They simply couldn’t answer.

“I think it’s more frustration upon ourselves,” Freeman said. “I think a lot of us aren’t gonna be able to sleep tonight.”