Dodgers need to start seizing the day — or else
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers navigated the 2018 regular season as a persistent enigma. They were loaded with talent and rich in depth, clearly and significantly superior to the vast majority of their competition. But sprinkled throughout their run toward a sixth consecutive division title were several mind-numbing stretches — sometimes lasting a few innings, sometimes stretching into an entire month — that impeded their own progress.
The early part of this National League Championship Series has evolved into a painful reminder.
In Monday’s Game 3, which came three days after a historically poor Game 1, the Dodgers were sloppy once more, blundering their way into a 4-0 loss and a 2-1 series deficit to the younger, less-heralded Milwaukee Brewers.
Manny Machado, the star shortstop, made two awkward slides into second base and was called for interference on his second, thwarting an early rally. Cody Bellinger, an excellent center fielder on most occasions, misjudged a deep fly ball, which led to a two-out triple and, eventually, a run. Yasmani Grandal, struggling mightily behind and at the plate, committed his third passed ball in his second start in the series, eliciting faint chants for his backup.
The game ended in fitting fashion: The Dodgers put runners on second and third with none out in the ninth inning against a struggling reliever and did not score a run.
They finished 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“The home runs weren’t there,” Bellinger said, “and when the home runs aren’t there, we have to find ways to score.”
The Dodgers went deep 235 times and scored 804 runs during the regular season, both marks leading the NL. They outscored their competition by 206 runs. But they won only 92 games — 10 fewer wins than they should have, based on their inflated run differential — in large part because they perpetually struggled to manufacture runs.
The Dodgers collectively batted .253 with runners in scoring position, a mark topped by 11 other teams, and the postseason stage seemingly hasn’t solved their issues.
“I think we’re just searching for ways to get the job done,” Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy said. “I don’t really know what that is yet. Hopefully we can get it going. We had opportunities to score runs tonight, we had opportunities to manufacture runs, and it just didn’t happen.”
Four Dodgers reached base against Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacin in the second inning, but none of them scored. Machado led off the fourth with a walk, then sprinted toward second base in an attempt to break up a double play and was called for interference, tacking on an additional out on a play that Bellinger easily beat on the back end.
Machado reached out to grab Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia with his right hand on his first-inning slide but wasn’t called for interference.
Machado did something similar in the fourth, sliding to the left of the bag, then grabbing Arcia’s knee with his right hand. It occurred well after Arcia got rid of his throw, but replay officials ruled against Machado, who wasn’t available to speak on the matter postgame.
“On the first one, I didn’t think there was anything wrong,” Arcia said. “On the second one, I definitely felt a little more.”
But the Dodgers had other opportunities. In the fifth, Grandal led off with a ground-rule double and was stranded on second base, partly because Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided not to hit for starting pitcher Walker Buehler. In the sixth, Justin Turner reached second with one out on a throwing error by Brewers third baseman Mike Moustakas but went no farther.
Most painfully, in the ninth, Jeremy Jeffress, who allowed a couple runs in Game 2, gave up a single to Turner and a double to Machado to begin the inning.
Then Bellinger flied out to shallow left field, grabbed his bat on both ends and flung it to the turf, falling to 1-for-21 in this postseason.
Then Grandal struck out and slammed the barrel of his bat onto the dirt in front of him. It was his third punchout of the night and his 30th in 25 career postseason games.
“It is what it is,” said Hernandez, who watched his team become the first in postseason history to commit four errors and two passed balls in Game 1. “Game’s already done. We sucked, and that’s why we lost.”