The energy that pulsed through Dodger Stadium the previous four days was gone Monday. The San Diego Padres left town, replaced by the Cincinnati Reds, and the playoff ambience that had snuck into Chavez Ravine six months early exited with them.
It was time for the Dodgers to turn the page, return to typical April baseball, and recover from a draining four-game series loss to their brash rivals. A date with the Reds offered the first-place club a prime bounceback chance. Cincinnati arrived on a seven-game losing streak with an offense sputtering as much as the Dodgers’ bats have recently.
The Dodgers, without Justin Turner (rest) in the starting lineup, recorded six hits, worked five walks and had two batters hit by a pitch. But they struck out 12 times, went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base, affording their pitching staff little room for error again.
They’ve scored three or fewer runs in seven of their last nine games, all played with Cody Bellinger on the injured list with a fractured fibula. The rut has coincided with their worst stretch of the young season; the Dodgers (15-8) have lost six of eight games and have fallen into a tie with San Francisco Giants atop the National League West standings after starting the season 13-2.
“Throughout the lineup we just have to take better at-bats consistently,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I know we’re better than how we’re performing right now. Every offense goes through these kinds of lulls and it’s kind of magnifying things on the bullpen side. I think our offense will perform better in the coming days, but right now we’re in a little funk.”
Roberts gave the ball to Jansen in the 10th inning after staying away from him in the team’s 11-inning loss to the Padres on Sunday. Roberts maintained the decision, made with the long season in mind, was the right one even though his bullpen was shorthanded. The Dodgers have been careful with their relievers this season, and they’ve been most careful with Jansen.
So Jansen entered Monday’s game in the 10th inning on one day of rest. But he still wasn’t sharp. His stuff didn’t pop. His velocity was slightly down. And Winker, with a runner at second base to start the inning, lifted his second pitch, a 92-mph two-seam fastball up and away, just over the wall in left field for the only homer Jansen has surrendered in 10 1/3 innings this season.
The Dodgers had another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the frame, but Luke Raley struck out looking with runners on the corners to seal the result.
“We’re one hit away from breaking it open,” Dodgers catcher Will Smith said. “We’re a good offense. We’re going to go through games, series like this, where we just can’t get it all together.”
Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle, a product of Westminster High School, held the Dodgers to one run over five innings in front of his family, who watched from the loge level behind home plate. The performance increased his earned-run average through five starts from 1.74 to 1.75.
Julio Urías was coming off the best start of his career for the Dodgers last week when he gave up one hit and one walk with a career-high 11 strikeouts across seven scoreless innings against the Seattle Mariners. He appeared on the same track early Monday.
The left-hander walked the game’s first batter but retired the next nine hitters in a row. Then he encountered a roadblock. Jesse Winker singled and Nick Castellanos doubled to start the fourth inning. Eugenio Suárez followed with an RBI groundout before Nick Senzel stroked a sacrifice fly.
The Reds (10-12) added a third run in the fifth inning on a single from Castellanos and Urías’ outing ended after the frame. He surrendered the three runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out six and threw 87 pitches.
“I didn’t feel my curve was very sharp tonight,” Urías said. “I didn’t really have command of the breaking ball like I would like to.”
The ballpark was empty Monday afternoon, save for a few players going through some fielding drills, when Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard gathered his eight relievers in left field for a pep talk.
The relief corps had blown a six-run lead in a marathon loss to the San Diego Padres less than 24 hours earlier. It was a new day. Bard addressed the group briefly. At the end, they all put their hands in the middle and broke the huddle for their pregame workouts.
The group’s composition told part of the story of the Dodgers’ recent troubles. Joe Kelly, Tony Gonsolin, and Corey Knebel weren’t there. They’re all on the injured list for the foreseeable future. David Price was also missing. Minutes later, Price officially joined them on the injured list.
The news was expected once Roberts revealed that Price had a hamstring strain in his outing Sunday after the loss, but the severity was unclear. On Monday, Roberts disclosed another dose of bad news: Price suffered a Grade 2 strain and will miss at least a few weeks.
“It depends on how David responds,” Roberts said. “The nice thing is he can still keep his arm moving, and he’s determined to get back sooner than later, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Price’s move to the injured list was one of a series of transactions the Dodgers made ahead of Monday’s game.
Second baseman Gavin Lux (wrist) was activated from the injured list and reliever Dennis Santana was reinstated from the COVID-19 list after missing two games because of side effects from his second vaccine dose. Mitch White was recalled to join the bullpen while Cleavinger and outfielder DJ Peters were optioned to the alternate training site.
White relieved Urías on Monday and logged 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Santana tossed a clean eighth inning. Lux started at second base and put the Dodgers on the board in the fourth inning with a two-out, RBI single.
That was the only run the Dodgers produced until the Reds summoned left-hander Amir Garrett to face the left-handed-hitting Corey Seager with one on and two outs in the seventh inning. Seager golfed Garrett’s second pitch – a slider down and in – over the wall in right field to tie the game. But the Reds struck the final blow, leaving the Dodgers with another loss.
“I’ve said it many times over in the past years,” Roberts said. “We’re gonna be fine.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.