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The Dodgers open their road trip on Tuesday night against the Marlins in Miami, having lost seven of their last eight games.Since their no-hitter in Mexico on May 4 the Dodgers have only led at the end of 13 of their 75 innings played. Three different times the Dodgers have lost four straight games this season, but they have yet to lose five straight.Alex Wood is on the mound Tuesday to try to stop the current skid, and also looking for his first win of the season.
Wood has a 50.4% ground ball rate this season with only three home runs allowed in his eight starts. He has allowed one run in five innings in both of his May starts, but has just a 44% ground ball rate in those games and five walks in 10 innings after three walks in 35 innings in April.
He has not lost a start to the Marlins since 2014, allowing six total runs in his last six starts against them, 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 40⅓ innings during that span.The Marlins got off to a putrid start of their own, dropping 17 of their first 22 games this season. Then they beat the Dodgers two games in a row at Dodger Stadium to take the series in Los Angeles, and won their next three series as well.
But Miami enters this series struggling as well, with six losses in their last seven games. The Marlins have the distinction of ranking last in the majors in runs scored (3.45 per game), OPS+ (80) and ERA+ (73). They are also last in the National League in runs allowed (5.40), and 27th in MLB.
Wei-Yin Chen missed the first month of the season with a left elbow strain. He won his first start back but has allowed 13 runs, including five home runs in seven innings over his last two starts.
Since Marlins Park opened in 2012 the Dodgers have won four of their six series in Miami, winning 12 of 19 games.Inside a distressing Dodgers season, it was just another day. The Dodgers played a fellow bad team. They lost again, for the fifth game in a row, this time 4-2 to the Miami Marlins, who were unimpressed by the return of Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers lineup.
Onward the Dodgers slouch toward last place, performing as if hell-bent on evicting the San Diego Padres from the basement of the National League West. The Padres remained in last Tuesday, but perhaps they should not buy real estate. The Dodgers are racing to the bottom at an alarming speed. After winning 104 games in 2017, they are on pace for 99 losses in 2018.
Tuesday’s game felt like so many before. The starting pitcher was useful but far from dominant. The bullpen leaked like a sieve. The offense was absent. The manager offered no answers.
“This is testing every bit of fight you have,” manager Dave Roberts said. “This is a stretch that I’m sure a lot of these guys haven’t gone through.”
Alex Wood (0-4) pitched well enough to win, which meant, as a member of the 2018 Dodgers (16-25), he was saddled with a loss. He gave up two runs in six innings, scattering nine singles and striking out five batters. One of the runs was unearned, the product of an error by Forsythe. In the seventh inning, Adam Liberatore and J.T. Chargois teamed up to surrender two runs.
Before the game, Turner insisted he could not serve as this season’s savior. He was right. He was one for four in his first game back from a fractured wrist as the lineup failed to solve Wei-Yin Chen, a starting pitcher who carted a double-digit earned-run average to the mound. Home runs by Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger provided the only offense. The team was hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“Overall, we just haven’t gotten any momentum or started clicking,” Wood said. “Losing’s not much fun.”At this point, the Dodgers will require a serious reversal to even sniff October. The team received help Tuesday when Arizona Diamondbacks star outfielder A.J. Pollock was diagnosed with a broken thumb. Arizona had lost six games in a row heading into Tuesday. Even with the Dodgers at a low ebb, the division is still up for grabs.
The Dodgers will need to win a series before they can dream about winning a division. The return of Turner allowed the players to hope. Turner tamped that down before the game.
“It’s just about understanding that one guy can’t come in and drive in 100 runs in one game and hit a bunch of homers,” Turner said. “It’s about taking good at-bats and stacking those good at-bats throughout the lineup.”
Wood gave up hits to the first two batters he faced. The fourth was outfielder Brian Anderson. Playing at shortstop, Chris Taylor scooped a grounder off Anderson’s bat and fed Forsythe for one out at second base. Forsythe bounced a throw to first base and a run scored on the error.
A one-run deficit feels like a mountain these days for the Dodgers. Over the weekend, the hitters were mystified by the Cincinnati quartet of Tyler Mahle, Matt Harvey, Homer Bailey and Luis Castillo. None of those men are expected to contend for the National League Cy Young Award. Neither is Chen, who entered Tuesday with a 10.22 ERA in three starts.
Chen did not yield a hit in the first three innings. The Dodgers could not even capitalize on Miami’s ineptitude in the third inning, when Puig raced from first to third as first baseman Justin Bour watched a bunt attempt by Wood roll in the dirt. Puig remained at third as Taylor swung through a 3-and-0 fastball and failed to do damage on another fastball. Enrique Hernandez struck out to end the inning.”That one took the wind out of our sails, when we didn’t execute,” Roberts said.
Turner became the first Dodger to collect against Chen with a fourth-inning single. A one-out single by catcher Austin Barnes added to Chen’s stress. Chen did not need to worry. Bellinger and Forsythe flied out to end the threat.
Miami added a run in the fourth. After singles by Anderson and Bour, former Dodger Miguel Rojas provided a sacrifice fly. The act of a productive out looked foreign to the Dodgers offense.
Two more Dodgers were stranded in the fifth. Puig led off with a walk. Taylor singled. But Turner hit a soft liner into the glove of third baseman Martin Prado to extend the team’s woes with runners in scoring position.
Turner was the team’s most productive hitter in 2017. He led the offense throughout the team’s sprint to the World Series. Even so, his return to the lineup cannot heal Corey Seager’s surgically repaired left elbow or end Bellinger’s regression. He cannot fix the bullpen. He cannot show an entire roster how to execute with men on base.
The cavalry arrived for the Dodgers on Tuesday. And it might not be enough.The Dodgers managed only five hits after being swept in a four-game series at home by woeful Cincinnati.
“We hit a lot of balls hard and didn’t get rewarded for it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “The fight was there, and it just didn’t happen. I know it sounds redundant, but these are our guys, and we’ve got to keep going.”
Chen, who came into the game with an ERA of 10.22, allowed no runs but departed after 4 1/3 innings and 83 pitches.
“The Dodgers have a great team and great lineup,” the Taiwanese left-hander said through a translator. “During the whole game, the only thing I was thinking about was keeping the ball down.”
Nick Wittgren (2-0) replaced Chen and worked 1 2/3 perfect innings to lower his ERA to 0.69. Brad Ziegler gave up a home run to Cody Bellinger in the ninth but earned his sixth save .
Dodgers infielders Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe were activated before the game from the disabled list but couldn’t spark the defending NL champions, who have scored 11 runs during their skid.