In a normal season, Tuesday’s game between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants would’ve been just another meeting between rivals on opposite ends of the contention spectrum. The Dodgers began the night with the best record in the majors, eight games ahead of the fourth-place Giants. The Dodgers are World Series favorites. The Giants are still rebuilding. They reside in different stratospheres.
But this is 2020 and 2020 is strange. So, Tuesday’s encounter was one between two potential playoff opponents. While the Dodgers entered the night as the top seed in the National League, the Giants, despite being two games below .500, were clinging to the National League’s eighth and final spot in this year’s expanded postseason with 30 games to go. That means the teams are on pace to play a three-game first-round series in October.
Anything can happen in a three-game series, especially one between familiar foes, and the Dodgers’ 10-8, 11-inning loss in the opener of the three-game set Tuesday at Oracle Park was evidence.
The Dodgers blew four leads, including in each of the final three innings, to have their four-game winning streak snapped as the Giants extended theirs to seven games. They committed two errors and made another fielding decision that might’ve cost them the game. Their starting pitcher, this time Julio Urías, logged fewer than five innings for the 10th time in 18 games.
In the end, Donovan Solano hammered Dennis Santana’s hanging slider for a walk-off two-run home run.
“It just wasn’t a well-played game for us,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We just didn’t do a lot of things right, which kept those guys in the ballgame and they found a way to walk us off.”
The clubs exchanged three-run home runs between Max Muncy and Brandon Belt in the first inning. Then the Dodgers (22-9) jumped ahead with another three-run burst in the third ignited by Corey Seager’s leadoff home run before their bats went silent. The Giants (15-16) capitalized and climbed back into the game. They tied it when Belt clobbered another home run in the ninth inning to give Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen his first blown save this season.
The blast set the stage for a strange 10th inning. With Justin Turner starting at second base as the designated runner as part the league’s new extra-inning rule designed to end games more quickly, Giants left-hander Jarlin Garcia and rookie catcher Joey Bart couldn’t get in sync. Garcia repeatedly shook off Bart. There was a mound visit. Garcia felt he needed to step off the mound a few times.
The disconnection was costly. Bart was expecting a slider when Garcia threw AJ Pollock a fastball. The pitch bounced off Bart’s arm, giving Turner just enough time to dash to third base. Bart, scrambling, fired a hurried throw to third base that sailed into left field. Turner raced home to score during the disastrous sequence.
The Giants responded with help from a questionable decision. Steven Duggar led the inning off with a routine groundball to Seager at shortstop. Bart, the free runner at second base, darted for third anyway. It was a dangerous decision. Seager could’ve nabbed him at third base. Instead, he decided to throw to first base for the sure first out.
« Nine out of 10 times, Seager is going to come to me for the lead runner,” Turner said. “But he was kind of blocked out on the play [by Bart]. »
Two batters later, Mauricio Dubón tied the game with two-out chopper to Turner at third base. Turner, positioned in and off the line with a runner at third base, made the stop with an acrobatic dive but didn’t have time to make a play.
Turner, who went 4 for 6 with three runs scored, was in the middle of the action again in the top of the 11th inning when he hit a slow roller between pitcher Tyler Rogers and Belt at first base with two outs. Rogers snagged the ball on the run but stumbled and fell as he tried to beat Turner to the bag. Turner sidestepped his last-gasp tag attempt. Will Smith, the designated baserunner, scored to put Los Angeles ahead again.
But that lead was squandered, too. First, Evan Longoria lined an RBI single to tie the score. Two batters later, Solano ended it to make the Giants the second team in the modern era to overcome deficits in the ninth, 10th, and 11th innings in a win.
The Dodgers have overcome most everything thrown their way this season. But Tuesday’s oddities proved how one game can get away and promptly put even the best teams on their heels in a three-game series. It’s a hole the Dodgers must avoid when the playoff format gets weird in October. In August, it’s just a game to forget.
Roberts said Alex Wood’s start in an intrasquad game Monday at Dodger Stadium was “positive,” but not “overwhelmingly positive.” Wood threw three innings in the scrimmage, which mostly featured players from the team’s alternate training site at USC.
The Dodgers had planned on activating the left-hander from the injured list this weekend in Texas, but Roberts said his return was postponed. Wood didn’t join the team on their current trip.
“Right now, where we’re at,” Roberts said, “I just don’t know when his activation or his role might be with us.”
That explanation indicates there’s a chance Wood could return as a reliever. That’s a question the Dodgers will also have to answer when they recall Tony Gonsolin, who has thrown 14 2/3 scoreless innings in three starts this season.
The right-hander was the other starting pitcher in Monday’s scrimmage – he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings — and is on the Dodgers’ five-man taxi squad for their road trip. Gavin Lux, Luke Raley, Rocky Gale, and Mitch White comprise the rest of the taxi squad.
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