Thursday, June 20, 2024

Dodgers’ pitching lets them down in loss to Diamondbacks

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LOS ANGELES — For 27 games – 21 of them victories – the Dodgers’ pitching was the staple ingredient in a winning formula.

The cupboard was bare Tuesday night.

The Arizona Diamondbacks piled up 12 hits, including a three-run home run by former Dodger Joc Pederson and the Dodgers’ offense couldn’t keep up, losing 7-3 to snap a four-game winning streak.

The seven runs allowed by Dodgers pitchers matched the most runs they had allowed in a game since April 19. The stretch in between included a franchise record 22 games without allowing more than four runs in any game.

Dodgers starter Gavin Stone had a rocky one. He had given up just one run in each of his previous four starts, no more than two in an outing since April 7.

But the Diamondbacks strung together four consecutive singles in the second inning to produce two runs then went back for single runs in the fifth and again in the sixth (Christian Walker’s 21st career home run against the Dodgers).

“I thought these guys had a pretty good gameplan against him tonight,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “You could see some breaking balls going the other way. There was some soft contact in that second inning that they made good on.”

Diamondbacks starter Brandon Pfaadt held the Dodgers scoreless for 4⅓ innings in a start during last fall’s National League Division Series and picked up where he left off Tuesday. He didn’t have much to worry about other than Shohei Ohtani, who had two of the Dodgers’ four hits off Pfaadt, scored two of their runs and drove in the other.

Pfaadt walked Mookie Betts to start the bottom of the first inning. But he retired the next nine Dodgers in order before giving up his first of the game, a leadoff double sliced into the left field corner by Ohtani leading off the fourth.

Ohtani stayed at second while Freddie Freeman popped out to the catcher then broke for third with Will Smith at the plate. Othani had the base stolen easily but Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno made an off-balance, sidearm throw from one knee anyway. It sailed into left field untouched and Ohtani trotted home with the Dodgers’ first run.

Ohtani stole another base later in the game, his 13th of the season – halfway to his career-high set in 2021 (his first AL MVP season).

“Shohei’s playing amazing baseball. He really is,” Roberts said. “He’s taking really good at-bats. He’s taking walks when needed and he’s stealing bases to try to create some type of energy or some type of optimism for us.

“With the bat, with his legs – it’s really game-changing stuff.”

Miguel Vargas led off the sixth inning with a double. Two batters later, Ohtani drove him in with an RBI single (Ohtani’s sixth hit in his past 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position). Smith drove Ohtani in with a two-out double that made it a one-run game, 4-3.

Roberts said some relievers were unavailable due to recent usage so he went with Michael Grove in the seventh inning despite some left-handed bats (Corbin Carroll, a switch-hitting Ketel Marte and Pederson) on the horizon.

Raised into a more prominent bullpen role by the loss of four high-leverage right-handers to the injured list (Ryan Brasier, Joe Kelly, Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol), Grove had taken to the greater responsibility, allowing just one run and three hits while striking out 11 in his eight appearances before Tuesday.

But he walked the first batter he faced in the seventh, gave up a one-out single to Ketel Marte then watched Pederson lift a 1-and-1 slider at the knees and send it into the right field pavilion.

“It’s a situation where you just can’t walk that leadoff guy,” Roberts said. “We’re still in that ballgame and obviously that brings Joc to the plate. … (Grove) left a slider out over. (Pederson) does what he does to right-handed pitchers. Michael’s been on a good run and so hopefully he can learn from it but continue to build on that momentum he’s had.”

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