Yasmani Grandal remained in the batter’s box, his hands on his hips, his head turned to the umpire in disbelief.
Could this really be happening again?
Could the Dodgers really have charged into October, only for their offense to suddenly to vanish once more?
What unfolded at Nationals Park in Game 2 of a National League division series was a familiar sight to anyone who has watched the Dodgers stumble postseason after postseason in the previous 27 years.
Three times in their 5-2 defeat to the Nationals, the Dodgers loaded the bases with only one out.
Three times, they failed to score a single run.
The nightmare Sunday was especially personal for Grandal, who marched into the batter’s box twice with every base occupied.
The first time, in the third inning, he grounded into a double play. The next, in the fifth, he struck out.
In all, the Dodgers were 0 for 5 with the bases loaded. They were one for nine with runners in scoring position.
Actually, it was 12. And now, the best-of-five series is tied at one.
“We’re going to have days like this,” Grandal said.
Others also tried to convince themselves this was an isolated incident.
“Just baseball sometimes, you know …” said Adrian Gonzalez, who flied out to left field in the sixth inning with runners on first and second and the Dodgers down, 4-2.
Except there is no margin for error at this time of the year. A bad game here, a bad game there, and the next thing you know, you’re back home watching the remainder of the postseason on television.
A fastball fractured Hanley Ramirez’s ribs in the opening game of the NL Championship Series and the Dodgers’ offense never recovered. Season over.
What about 2014?
Their lineup went to sleep after the first game and they were eliminated again by the St. Louis Cardinals, except only one round earlier.
Or last year?
Nationals Jayson Werth celebrates after scoring a run against the Dodgers in the 7th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Nationals Jayson Werth beats the tag from Dodgers catcher Yasmndi Grandal to score a run in the 7th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal tags out Nationals base runner Bryce Harper at the plate in the 5th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Nationals Jose Lobaton hits a three-run home run against Dodgers pitcher Rich HIll in the 4th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers Justin Turner beats the tag of Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton to score a run inthe 3rd inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers Corey Seager can’t reach the ball on a single by Nationals Trea Turner in the 3rd inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Pigeons fly by Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa during the Game 2 playoff game.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher RIch HIll makes a pitch against the Nationals in Game 2.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
They pitched well enough to take the winner-take-all fifth game of their NLDS against the New York Mets, but were blanked over the final eight innings.
If there was a reason to be encouraged by the game Sunday, it was how they forced Nationals starter Tanner Roark out of the game after only 4 1/3 innings. Corey Seager homered in the first inning for the second time in two games. The Dodgers doubled their lead to 2-0 in the third inning when Josh Reddick singled to score Justin Turner from second base.
But the Dodgers had only one hit over the remainder of the game, a one-out single by Turner in the ninth inning against closer Mark Melancon.
The game was uncomfortably similar to Game 1, when the Dodgers scored four runs in the first three innings and didn’t score again. In the series opener, they had only three hits over the last six innings.
You had to wonder if the Dodgers plunged into a slump in their final regular-season series, when they scored four runs in three games and were swept by the San Francisco Giants.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to these Dodgers.
Their lineup had more length than in previous years. Their regular season was characterized by a consistent ability to increase leads in the late innings.
“You never know, tomorrow we might score a bunch of runs later in the game,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just how it works.”
But what is perhaps most disconcerting is their continued inability to hit left-handed pitching.
The Dodgers had baseball’s worse offense against left-handers during the regular season. The availability of the right-handed-hitting Kendrick, Yasiel Puig and Carlos Ruiz off the bench hasn’t changed that.
Over two scoreless innings in Game 1, they were only one of seven against left-handed reliever Sammy Solis.
Solis faced one batter in Game 2 and got him out. The Nationals’ other left-handed bullpen option, 35-year-old Oliver Perez, retired the two batters he faced.
The Nationals’ starter in Game 3?
Gio Gonzalez, a left-hander.