The Dodgers are one of the worst if not the worst clutch performers in the majors in 2018 and they showed why on Thursday evening during their latest disaster, losing to the Dbacks 3-1 in the series opener. The Dodgers entered the contest winners of their last five in a row but that was against the two worst teams in the majors (Padres, Rangers) so my expectations were quite low as they began what really is the most pivotal series of the season. In the end it was a botched double play that doomed the Dodgers. A wide throw from a player (Justin Turner) who rarely if ever makes mistakes led to the Snakes plating three unanswered runs.
Arizona left hander Robbie Ray shut the Dodgers down again, striking out nine over 5.1 innings allowing one earned run on four hits. For the record the Dodgers have never been able to hit Ray. He was previously undefeated against the Dodgers in his last five decisions. The southpaw was 6-3 with a 2.69 ERA and 105 punch-outs in 13 career starts versus the Dodgers. Even with Ray struggling over his last ten starts (5.19 ERA coming into tonight’s game) he still mowed the Dodgers down with minimal effort.
Dbacks 3 10 1
Dodgers 1 8 0
While the Dodger bats did little to nothing all night, the management did not put them in a position to succeed. Once again instead of starting the hot bats (Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy) the Dodgers played match-ups, using an all right handed lineup with the ice cold Matt Kemp batting cleanup. Enrique Hernandez was playing first base and the worst hitter in MLB Austin Barnes was batting eighth behind the dish. Why in the world the Dodgers keep starting Barnes is beyond my comprehension. He should have been sent down to the minors weeks ago.
With the Dodgers putting all of their weakest hitters against Ray, it was no surprise to anybody that they were unable to gain any traction offensively. The situational hitting is not there this year and there’s little chance of anything changing this late in the season. Yet playing your hottest hitters is something that always helps. The Dodgers had eight hits and were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The lone run to cross then plate was on a Manny Machado solo home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Meanwhile Dodger starter and fellow southpaw Rich Hill did his best to keep the Dodgers in the game. Hill pitched well enough, but ran out of gas in the top of the fifth. Hill’s pitch count mounted during the fifth frame as Arizona scored three on a three-run home run from David Peralta. The Home run should never have happened, because the Dodgers made a glaring mistake that eventually cost them the game. The inning began with consecutive singles from Ray and Steven Souza Jr. AJ Pollack’s ground ball to third looked like an easy double play but Turner’s throw pulled Dozier away from the bag. Somehow Dozier kept his foot on second base long enough to get a force out, but that extended the inning. After a big out on Paul Goldschmidt, Peralta smashed a towering drive into the right field pavilions. That was the game changer and the end of the evening for the Dodgers.
Of course it’s not like the Dodgers didn’t have any chances. The Dodgers had two on in the fourth after singles from Kemp and Hernandez, but Chris Taylor whiffed and Yasiel Puig grounded out weakly. In the bottom of the sixth, Machado bombed one out to cut the Arizona lead to 3-1. Ray was quickly hooked for Brad Ziegler. The Dodgers had another opportunity later in the inning when Kemp singled into center and Cody Bellinger (pinch-hitting) lined a bullet, but it was right at Goldschmidt who stepped on first for the double play.
Perhaps their best chance came in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Turner singled and Machado singled over the third base bag sending Turner flying all the way around into third. However Kemp immediately grounded into an inning ending and game killing double play. All three Dodgers (Bellinger, Taylor, and Puig) struck out in the bottom of the ninth.
The loss drops the Dodgers back to two games behind in the NL West, and 2.5 games behind in the wild card race. If there is any kind of urgency we are seeing none of it. You would think the Dodgers would show some kind of life, but unless they’re playing the Padres or another bottom dweller they simply roll over like a dog in heat. Nothing is changing folks. The series will move forward Friday night as the Dodgers look to tie the series. Turncoat Zack Greinke will take the mound for the Snakes as the Dodgers counter with Hyun-jin Ryu.