May 9, 2016
The baseball rolled into Howie Kendrick’s glove, and Scott Kazmir appeared on the verge of a tidy ending to his evening. Kazmir had allowed the New York Mets to score in each of the three innings he pitched on Monday until he found his footing. Kendrick reached into his glove for a simple throw to first base to record the last out of the sixth.
Then he dropped the ball.
The error by Kendrick extended Kazmir’s outing and soured his exit in a 4-2 Dodgers defeat at Dodger Stadium. Kazmir promptly yielded a run-scoring double to Steven Matz, the opposing pitcher. He did not finish the sixth inning.
The run was not decisive — the Dodgers (16-16) trailed by a run at the time — but the play underscored the imprecise execution that harmed the club during the first five weeks of the season. The sixth week of 2016 extended the pattern.
“It’s got to sync together,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “And I think that right now, one thing’s on, one thing’s off. And that’s why we’re .500 right now, status quo.”
Kazmir left the game with his earned-run average at 5.54. Like his team, he has been unable to find traction thus far.
On offense, the Dodgers sputter from day to day, as core contributors like Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner remain mired in slumps. The trio had a chance to erase the deficit in the eighth, when Gonzalez reached on an error and Turner walked. The rally fizzled when Puig struck out and Trayce Thompson popped out in foul territory. The Dodgers did not record a hit after the fourth inning.
“I think guys are probably trying to do too much right now,” said Thompson, who provided the team’s lone burst of offense with a two-run home run in the fourth inning. “That’s usually always the case [when teams slump].”
The two clubs met for the first time since the Mets ended the Dodgers season last October in a National League division series. The Mets entered in fine form, with their lineup and their quartet of young, talented starting pitchers all operating in working order. The Dodgers had captured a series over the weekend in Toronto, but still had not made up for a six-game losing streak on the last homestand.
“We’ve got to pick it up,” catcher A.J. Ellis said.
The day started with anti-climax. With the Mets starting Matz, a left-handed pitcher, the Dodgers sat second baseman Chase Utley, who broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada by sliding into second base in Game 2 of the division series. Utley appeared in two at-bats as a pinch-hitter later in the game without incident.
Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson moved the conversation away from Utley on the game’s first pitch. Kazmir opened with a 92-mph fastball over the middle. Granderson drove it into the right-field bleachers.
“At first I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Kazmir said. “I honestly didn’t think he got that good of wood on it.”
An inning later, Kazmir fell victim to a second home run. Catcher Kevin Plawecki pounced on a changeup at the thighs. This blast headed over the fence in left.
“The stuff was good, but it just seems like every mistake that he makes seems to go out of the ballpark,” Roberts said.
Kazmir kept the Mets in the park in the third inning, but he still surrendered a run. The arm of left fielder Enrique Hernandez saved him twice. On the first occasion, Hernandez gunned down Granderson at second base after a leadoff single. Granted a break, Kazmir created more trouble for himself.
Kazmir hit shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch. He walked third baseman David Wright. A single by outfielder Yoenis Cespedes increased New York’s lead to three. Kazmir walked first baseman Lucas Duda to load the bases.
Hernandez came through again after Mets outfielder Juan Lagares popped up into shallow left center. Hernandez sprinted toward the diamond for the out, and caught Cespedes drifting too far from second base for the double play.
After Thompson went deep in the fourth, the Dodgers drew within a run. But they went no further. Kazmir picked up two outs to start the sixth. He walked second baseman Wilmer Flores, but when Plawecki hit a grounder to Kendrick, the inning looked over. It was not. Kazmir fed Matz, a .227-hitter entering the night, a lifeless changeup. Matz chopped the ball into left.
Roberts intervened and made a pitching change. Kazmir watched the rest of the inning from the dugout. A look of disbelief covered his face.
“I feel like I’m really close to getting where I want to be,” Kazmir said. “I don’t want to look too far into the past of what’s happened. That’s in the past.”