Hernández: Panic mode takes root for Dodgers, who are doing little right

With an out at the top of the seventh inning, manager Dave Roberts challenged Gavin Lux to pinch hit Austin Barnes.

Lux struck out facing a 101-mph fastball from Luis Garcia, but the importance of the at-bat lay more in its symbolism than its outcome.

The Dodgers panicked.

The substitution had cost them their designated hitter, as Will Smith was forced to don his chest protector in the bottom half of the inning after starting the game as a DH. Removing Barnes was risky with the Dodgers down by just one run and extra innings possible, but these were desperate times.

The sudden disappearance of offense has brought the Dodgers close to defeat, a 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres Friday night at Petco Park putting them two games to one-to-one behind in their best-of National League Division Series.

They still haven’t scored a run against the Padres’ bullpen, and Saturday’s opposing starter in Game 4 will be Joe Musgrove, who went seven scoreless innings against the New York Mets in the deciding game of their wild-card streak.

The Dodgers hit .198 in this series against pitchers other than Padres Game 1 starter Mike Clevinger. They are now hitless in their last 19 at-bats with runners in goal position. They are scoreless in 13 innings against Padres relievers.

“We don’t get hit when we need to,” Freddie Freeman said. “We still had a few opportunities so if you want to take something positive, I think we can capitalize on that. But we have to strike tomorrow.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts watches Game 3 of the NLDS in San Diego from the dugout.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts watches Game 3 of the NLDS at Petco Park from the dugout.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Freeman said the Dodgers’ batsmen hadn’t changed their approach, but his own bats proved otherwise.

With a runner on third base and the Dodgers with a run in the fifth inning, Freeman swung on the first pitch delivered to him by Padres starter Blake Snell. He landed on third base.

In his next shot, with Trea Turner at first base and no outs in the eighth inning, Freeman again attacked the first throw. He flew into midfield.

“I think we’re hyper-aggressive at the beginning and don’t stay on the ball,” said Roberts.

The highest-scoring team in baseball had five runs in the first 2 2/3 innings of their Game 1 win, but failed to record a single hit after Clevinger’s departure.

The 111-win team went the route of feast or famine in their Game 2 loss, with their entire offensive performance consisting of three solo homers against Yu Darvish.

Game 3 was just more of the same – if not worse. The Dodgers were 0 for 9 with runners in goal position. They stranded seven runners. Her only run came from Mookie Betts on a sacrificial fly in the fifth inning.

The performance was particularly frustrating because the Padres let them stay within striking distance. The Dodgers don’t play the Big Red Machine or the 1927 New York Yankees, and the Padres have had great trouble scoring themselves. Trent Grisham’s homer in the fourth inning doubled their lead to 2-0, but the lead could very well have been 5-0 or 6-0.

The Padres left 10 men on base and were one for 10 with runners in the goal position.

Before the game, Roberts had talked about how Betts could start offense. Betts was a combined eighth in the first two games, but his troubles started long before that, as he batted .206 in his last 26 games of the regular season.

Roberts wouldn’t repeat his refrain about how Betts leaves the Dodgers, but said, “It certainly makes life easier for everyone when he leaves.”

In Game 3, Betts left.

The Dodgers’ most expensive player led the game with a single to center field. He drove in one run with a sacrificial fly. He hit line drives in each of his other two at-bats, including a 99-mile scorcher in the third inning that was caught by Padre’s third baseman Manny Machado.

It does not matter.

The Dodgers' Mookie Betts slips to second base in the first inning. Padre's shortstop Ha-Seong Kim is on the right.

The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts slips into second base in the first inning and advances on a wild pitch. Padre’s shortstop Ha-Seong Kim is on the right. Betts was stranded.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Nor did it matter that the previously unproductive end of the lineup put men on the base.

No. 8 batsman Trayce Thompson and No. 9 batsman Barnes reached base to start both the third and fifth innings.

But Bett’s lineout against Machado in the third inning was followed by a strikeout by Turner, a walk by Freeman and a pop by Smith.

The runners were on second and third base in the fifth inning when a single from Thompson was followed by a double from Barnes. Bett’s sacrificial fly scored on Thompson and promoted Barnes to third base, but Turner and Freeman didn’t take him home.

With the Dodgers faced with the prospect of another disaster in October, Betts preached calm.

“Tomorrow is a new day,” Betts said. “We go and play. Lets see what happens. There are no expectations. We go out there and keep playing the same game.”

They are already not playing the same game. You now have less than a day to rediscover yourself.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-10-14/panic-mode-has-taken-root-for-dodgers-who-are-doing-very-little-right Hernández: Panic mode takes root for Dodgers, who are doing little right

Emma Bowman

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