SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants dressed in creamsicle. But it was the Dodgers who melted.
Playing for the fifth time in eight days and tied into the bottom of the eighth inning, a throwing error by Cody Bellinger in his first start at first base this season opened the door for the winning run as the San Francisco Giants beat the Dodgers, 2-1, on Tuesday night at Oracle Park.
The Dodgers have lost five of these crucial NL West showdown games – the last three after being tied or leading in the eighth inning. The latest gut punch pushed the Dodgers three games behind the first-place Giants (who wore their aggressively orange “City Connect” uniforms Tuesday).
“It hurts, man. It definitely hurts. These in-division games mean a lot,” Bellinger said of the Dodgers’ latest late-night meltdown against their rival.
“What happened happened. Obviously, I’m super frustrated about it. But there’s no do-overs in this game. I can’t dwell on it too much. I talked to Blake (Treinen) already. I’ve just got to come out tomorrow and do what I can to help us win.”
Lately, the Dodgers have been much better at finding ways to lose. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and his players preach the need to do “the little things right.” In these head-to-head meetings, the Giants have been the better team at all of those things.
“Yeah. I think you’ve got to be honest with yourselves,” Roberts said to that. “It’s two evenly matched ballclubs and if you look at how we’ve played – whether it’s an at-bat here or execution on defense, a missed play, a walk in a bad spot, they’ve been better than we have. On the margins, they’ve been better and you can look at the win-loss and see that they’ve got the best of us.”
The most reliable member of the Dodgers’ bullpen set them up for disaster this time.
Treinen came on in the seventh inning with two on and two outs and got pinch-hitter Steven Duggar to pop out.
In the eighth, however, he walked the first two batters, Buster Posey and Mike Yastrzemski, bringing up Darin Ruf with no outs. Ruf hit a ground ball to second baseman Max Muncy. Muncy fielded it cleanly, briefly chased Yastrzemski before throwing to first base for at least one certain out.
Bellinger handled the throw, pump-faked to second where he could have gotten Yastrzemski easily (on a tag play) but chose to fire a throw to third base, behind Posey. His throw sailed high over third base and into the netting in front of the seats. Posey trotted home with the winning run.
“I pump-faked at second to try and get Posey off the base. When I looked I saw him off the base enough (to where) a good throw gets him,” Bellinger said, an assertion that didn’t bear up under video scrutiny. “There’s no excuses. I just threw it too high.
“I think a good throw gets him still.” … When I saw him turn, he had his momentum towards home. JT (Justin Turner) was right there so I think a good throw gets him. Obviously, there’s also the safe play and letting Blake try to get out of that inning because he’s got nasty stuff. I don’t know.”
Compounding matters, Muncy had continued running forward on the infield grass after making his throw to first base – clearing a throwing lane to second base for Bellinger but getting in Bellinger’s sight-line when he opted to throw to third. Roberts brought that up as a possible factor in Bellinger’s errant throw.
“JT kind of mentioned something. It’s possible,” Bellinger said. “I don’t know how I would have thrown it that high. It was just a horrible throw. Horrible throw.”
The decisive error was the 63rd by the Dodgers this season (third in the National League) and the decisive run was the 57th unearned run they have allowed this season (the most in MLB). The latter number is inflated by the Dodgers’ miserable 1-10 record in extra innings – the extra runner placed on second base in extra innings does not count as an earned run if he scores.
“It has been a problem,” Roberts acknowledged. “We’ve talked pretty much this entire season about tightening up our defense and not giving up extra bases. We’ve just got to continue to stay on top of that.”
An unsupportive offense didn’t help, putting the Dodgers on that eighth-inning tightrope.
With a rotating cast of regulars unavailable – Muncy (paternity leave) and Bellinger (hamstring) returned Tuesday, while Mookie Betts (hip), Gavin Lux (hamstring) and Corey Seager (hand) remained out – the Dodgers’ offense has been sporadic at best over the past week, managing just 26 runs in their past eight games and only five in their past three.
Over their past eight games (five against the Giants and a three-game weekend series at home against the Colorado Rockies), the Dodgers have batted .201 as a team. They are 9 for 43 (.209) with runners in scoring position – and four of those hits came in one game (Friday’s extra-innings loss to the Rockies).
“On one side of it I can compliment the opposing pitching staffs,” Roberts said. “But the other side of it is – we’ve got to be better. I think in this case as an offense we’ve got to get better – getting baserunners and when we do get them on base we’ve got to drive them in. That’s just pretty simple.”
They had just one baserunner in the first four innings against Giants starter Logan Webb – a first-inning walk of Turner.
Bellinger led off the fifth inning with a single through the shift and moved to second on a ground out. He scored – running cautiously – when Billy McKinney hit a drive into the right-center field gap. McKinney was out trying to stretch it to a double.
The Dodgers had their only other real scoring threat in the eighth inning – and it was a good one. Luke Raley led off with a single and Chris Taylor doubled him to third with one out, bringing up Muncy, who came into the game batting an MLB-best .400 (30 for 75) with runners in scoring position.
But this time, Muncy bounced a ground ball to Giants first baseman Ruf. Ruf went home to get Raley. Turner flew out to end the threat.
“We have one of our best hitters up right there. I’ll take Max any time, second and third with a drawn-in infield to put the ball in the outfield,” Roberts said. “It’s baseball and those guys are getting paid to prevent runs. It’s one of those things our guys understand that you get put into positions, you’ve got to drive in runs. What can you say? Max has been great all year doing it. At that point in that situation, he didn’t get the job done.”