By Jon Weisman
Two nights ago against Miami, the Dodgers scored two runs in the first inning, saw their starting pitcher take a one-hit shutout into the sixth, and lost. Tonight, the series finale with the Marlins brought an unwelcome repeat.
The magic elixir of Kenta Maeda could only take the Dodgers so far.
Scoring three runs with two out in the seventh inning, Miami became the first team to push Maeda’s ERA above 1.00, and went on to complete their first-ever four-game sweep of the Dodgers with a 5-3 victory.
“They came in here and they pitched well, and they scored runs, and they outplayed us,” Dave Roberts said. “For them to come in and win four, we’ve got to turn the page, clean some things up and get ready for tomorrow. … I think there’s different parts we’ve got to continue to get better at, in all phases of the game.”
Los Angeles has lost four straight games to the Marlins for the first time since 1996-97.
“You look across baseball, 162 games, there’s going to be spurts where you’re not as crisp,” Roberts said. “There was some confusion tonight on the bases which shouldn’t happen, and just the crispness of our defense.
“I think it’s not a matter of focus. … Guys are preparing, taking groundballs, taking fly balls every day. We talk about running the bases, not giving away outs. I think everything’s obviously more magnified when you don’t win.”
For 6 1/3 innings, Maeda dazzled again. As he did in his last Dodger Stadium start 11 days ago, Maeda allowed a solo home run (by J.T. Realmuto) and the occasional hard-hit out, but the man just looked like a pitcher, through and through.
With the Dodgers ahead, 2-1, trouble began when Realmuto and Adeiny Hechevarria singled, one out into the top of the seventh.
On his MLB career-high 100th pitch of the game, shortly after a 151-second delay from a failed Miami replay challenge, Maeda struck out pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich. For Maeda, with men on base, it was the 43rd consecutive batter he had faced who had failed to drive in a run.
On Maeda’s 101st pitch of the game, Dee Gordon lined a single to left field, driving in Realmuto and tying the game.
Maeda left, to great applause by the Dodger Stadium crowd, and was replaced by Pedro Baez.
On Baez’s first pitch of the game, Martin Prado grounded a single to center field, scoring Adeiny Hechevarria to give Miami a 3-2 lead.
And before Baez threw his second pitch, he balked, one of those balks that’s more startle than sinister, allowing Gordon tack on another run.
In the aforementioned second game of this series, Clayton Kershaw’s ERA for the entire season doubled in the space of five batters. Remarkably, in the last game of this series, Maeda’s ERA went from 0.56 to 1.41 in the space of two pitches.
Through the first 35 innings of this series, the Dodgers scored seven runs — none after the fourth inning. Utley and Corey Seager combined to reach base seven times, but never scored after the first inning.
“A lot of our season has been like that, where many of the games we have lost we’ve had early leads and not continued to put those quality at-bats together and add on and put the game out of reach,” Roberts said. “We’ve kept teams in games and lost games late. We had (Jose) Fernandez on the ropes a few times and he was able to get through the game and give their team a chance to win.”
The toughest pill to swallow came in the bottom of the seventh. With two on and two out, Adrian Gonzalez hit a grounder to Gordon, who bobbled it. On the play, Utley had rounded second and headed for third, but Kiké Hernandez had held there. The Marlins were able to throw down to second and nail the Dodgers’ best baserunner, scrambling back to the base.
In the bottom of the ninth, trailing by three runs after Giancarlo Stanton hit his third homer of the series, the Dodgers got the tying run to the plate after singles by Trayce Thompson and Justin Turner (2 for 2 off the bench) led to a run. But Hernandez struck out, Utley flied out and Seager struck out.
The Dodgers fell into a first-place tie alongside San Francisco in the National League West, with Arizona half a game behind.