Are the Dodgers Starting to Fall Back Down to Earth?
Perhaps this is Icarus falling to the ground. After an 11-4 hiccup Wednesday night in Arizona against the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers flailed against the Houston Astros losing 3-1 to start a seven-game homestand against the NL Central.
Yet again it looked like the Dodgers would get yet another key base hit to pull out a victory from the proverbial jaws in the eighth inning. After being unable to scratching anything for the first seven innings, the Dodgers had the bases loaded with one out and one run already in. Ivan De Jesus as a pinch hitter struck out, and A.J. Ellis flew out to center to end the rally.
"We weren't able to do a whole lot," Manager Don Mattingly said. "We got it going a little bit late. We got a couple of chances. Just didn't have enough to win tonight."
At some point after playing with house money for weeks, this had to happen for the Dodgers. They have been fielding what could be described more accurately as a Triple-A lineup for the last several weeks. Take Friday night's lineup for example:
1. Tony Gwynn, Jr. - CF
2. Elian Herrera - 2B
3. Bobby Abreu - LF
4. Andre Ethier - RF
5. Jerry Hairston, Jr. - 3B
6. James Loney - 1B
7. A.J. Ellis - C
8. Dee Gordon - SS
9. Clayton Kershaw - P
To think that this lineup wasn't even the worst one Don Mattingly had trotted out. However this one had a hard time figuring out Astro's starter Lucas Harrell getting only five hits against the 26-year old making his 15th start of his career and 27th overall appearance.
The Dodgers got a runner on second base three times in the game:
1st inning — Andre Ethier flew out to center and Jerry Hairston grounded to third.
2nd inning — Clayton Kershaw grounded back to the box and Tony Gwynn grounded to second.
6th inning — James Loney grounded into a double play (4-6-3).
Harrell's night was done after giving up a one-out single to Elian Herrera in the eighth inning. After Wesley Wright walked Bobby Abreu and Andre Ethier singled, the focus was on Hairston making his first appearance since pulling his hamstring in Chicago on May 6. Having hit a single in the sixth inning going 1-for-3 up to that point.
It figured that the only run that would score for the Dodgers would be one where the bat never left the shoulder. At least that was better than the indignity of a six-pitch seventh inning for the Dodgers.
Not helping out the cause was Kershaw having less than his normal superlative outing.
"I didn't think I had my command," Kershaw said. "But overall I thought I did okay."
After pitching a six-hit shutout on Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals, Kershaw gave up four doubles in the first five innings. The third double hit by Jed Lowrie in the third inning had the dubious distinction of being followed up with a J.D. Martinez home run giving the Astros the 3-0 lead.
"He hit a good pitch," Kershaw conceded. "I shouldn't have been behind the count, obviously, but I threw one too many of the same pitches. But he did a good job with it to hit it out. Cost us a game."
Perhaps this sort of night was to be expected after the first inning of errors, rarities and madness. After Jose Altuve led off the game with a line-drive double, Lowrie struck out. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Martinez apparently fouled the first pitch he saw, but home-plate umpire Tim Welke said catcher A.J. Ellis got in the way awarding Martinez first base, the Dodgers' first since 2008 and first at Dodger Stadium since 1993.
Carlos Lee grounded into what appeared to be a 5-4-3 around-the-horn double play, but second baseman Elian Herrera threw the ball to the base of the fence of the Astros' dugout. Altuve slid home safely under Ellis' tag for the unearned run.
Something lingering from Sunday's eclipse during the last Dodger home game?
Just to pile on, while Hairston was back in the lineup and Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera looking to make their way back next week, another setback hit the Dodgers. Justin Sellers was placed on the disabled list with a bulging disk in his lower back. While Seller had back problems as a teenage athlete, he told reporters before the game that this bout was triggered by that diving play into the seats on May 14 against the Diamondbacks.
"A couple of days after that, I felt light back symptoms," Sellers said. "I had tingling down the right side of my leg."
Sellers even feels the pain while trying to sleep saying that the most comfortable position is on his side with pillows between his legs. While there have been grumblings about surgery being an option, nothing has been decided yet.
"Back issues are no joke. I just have to stay confident. Hopefully I don't need surgery."