The Dodgers’ offensive slump, a period that has extended deep into a second week save for the infrequent bright spot, has included its share of lowlights. Bad at-bats. Frustrating strike three calls. Hard-hit balls erased by defensive gems.
It started with Mookie Betts working a leadoff, four-pitch walk against Devin Williams, the reigning National League rookie of the year struggling out of the gate in 2021. It was just the second time the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter reached base Friday. Corey Seager was up next. Maybe, just maybe, the Dodgers had something brewing at American Family Park.
That hope lasted some seconds. Seager watched Williams throw four straight balls to Betts and swung at the first pitch anyway. It was lined up the middle, where Brewers shortstop Luis Urías was stationed in the shift. Urías gloved the ball on a hop and shoveled a lead throw to second baseman Kolten Wong, who smoothly made a leaping throwing across his body to complete a jaw-dropping double play.
“He’s an MVP-caliber player so I just don’t ever want him to be passive,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I like him aggressive and it’s just unfortunate they made a great play.”
The gem’s significance only climbed when Justin Turner and Will Smith followed with back-to-back singles. Williams was clearly scuffling. Max Muncy then grounded out to let him off the hook.
The offense narrowly avoided getting shut out for the first time this season thanks to Austin Barnes’ pinch-hit two-out RBI single off Josh Hader in the ninth inning. Betts then flied out to conclude the Dodgers’ eighth loss in 11 games as they fell a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West standings.
“We’re hitting the balls hard,” said Turner, who went two for four. “Eventually, they’ll get back to finding holes and we’ll be able to pass the baton like we’re used to.”
The offense produced nine hits but failed to support another strong start from Trevor Bauer. The right-hander wasn’t at his sharpest but gave up two runs on four hits across a season-high eight innings against a Brewers lineup without Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. He walked two, struck out six and threw 113 pitches in what went down as the Dodgers’ first complete game of the season.
His only costly stumble occurred in the fourth inning when he issued a two-out walk to Avisaíl García and Travis Shaw clobbered a curveball for a two-run home run.
“It was probably the wrong pitch,” Bauer said. “I wanted to throw a different pitch and second-guessed myself and that’ll get you every time.”
On the other side, the Dodgers couldn’t solve left-hander Eric Lauer again. The former San Diego Padre tossed five scoreless innings, lowering his career earned-run average against the Dodgers to 1.89 across 47 2/3 innings in eight starts. Three relievers then tossed a scoreless inning each for Milwaukee and Hader was just good enough.
The Dodgers made two roster moves that affected their bullpen before Thursday’s game. The first was expected. The other rung alarms.
First, Mitch White was activated from the injured list and outfielder Luke Raley was optioned to the alternate training site. White has side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine he took Monday night.
The second announcement surfaced as the game was about to begin: right-hander Brusdar Graterol to the 10-day injured list with right forearm tightness, an ominous injury designation for any pitcher. Right-hander Edwin Uceta was recalled.
Graterol’s injury is the third significant blow to the Dodgers’ bullpen over the last week. Corey Knebel suffered a lat strain that will cost him months. David Price strained his hamstring and will miss at least a few weeks. The team was already without relievers Joe Kelly (shoulder), Tony Gonsolin (shoulder), and Caleb Ferguson (Tommy John surgery).
After the game, Roberts said he didn’t know when Graterol suffered the injury or its severity. He said Graterol was available to pitch Wednesday but reported pain just before the game started Thursday.
The timing, while never good for injuries, is particularly problematic. The Dodgers emerged from Thursday with 14 pitchers and 12 position players on the roster. That split is usually even. Why the difference? The Dodgers are in the middle of 14 straight days of games and plan on going with a bullpen game Friday. Not having Graterol and his 100-mph fastball heightens the challenge.
Bauer helped matters by pitching all eight innings Thursday. The Dodgers will have nine relievers at their disposal Friday. It won’t matter if they don’t score runs.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.