June 16, 2016
The Dodgers had so many aspirations for this season. They would win the National League West for the fourth consecutive year, for the first time in franchise history. They would advance to the World Series, for the first time in 28 years.
Their aspirations did not include fighting to stay above the Colorado Rockies, or to stay above the .500 mark. But here they are, almost halfway through the season, far closer to Carlos Gonzalez in the standings than they are to Madison Bumgarner.
There is some fight left in these Dodgers. Yasmani Grandal made sure of that, in the most clumsy of ways. Grandal very nearly cost the Dodgers a critical run with a lapse in judgment, the trigger for a heated conversation with Justin Turner in the dugout, so animated that the two had to be separated by teammates.
And then the Dodgers lost to the Milwaukee Brewers anyway, 8-6, on a ninth-inning home run by Milwaukee shortstop Jonathan Villar, off Pedro Baez.
Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts had closer Kenley Jansen warming up but did not use him in the ninth inning of a tie game at home, when there could be no save situation.
If there was a lasting spark in the game, it was the one ignited not by the manager or one of the coaches, but by one player holding another accountable, and no matter if the television cameras could catch it.
“That’s something that hasn’t happened too much in the three years I’ve been on this team,” Turner said.
Said Grandal: “We need to play with some fire. If we fight, we fight. If we get some fire within the team to get us going, that’s fine.”
He suggested there has been some complacency in this team.
“At times, I feel we know we’re better than the other team,” he said, “and we lay back and relax … instead of making things happen.”
The Dodgers’ starting pitcher, Scott Kazmir, failed to last beyond four innings. Trayce Thompson had a three-run home run and a double for the Dodgers; no one else on the home team had an extra-base hit.
The Dodgers trail the first-place San Francisco Giants by a season-high 6 1/2 games in the NL West. They are two games above .500, and just 1 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Rockies.
This was the situation with Grandal that so infuriated his teammates: Joc Pederson on third base, Grandal at first, one out in the sixth inning, the Dodgers down by one run. Turner delivered a fly ball fairly deep into left field, deep enough that Pederson could jog home with the tying run.
All Grandal had to do was stand at first base – or, as Roberts said, go just far enough off the base to draw a throw. Instead, the slow-footed catcher tried to catch Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun napping. But Braun threw to second base, and Grandal was tagged out trying to advance.
That was the third out. If Grandal had been tagged before Turner hit home plate – and he very nearly was — the run would not have counted.
“It’s one of those baserunning mistakes,” Grandal said. “I guess I had a brain fart. I think it’s the first baserunning mistake I made in two years here. I’ll learn from it.”
Said Turner: “We’re all competitors. Sometimes you have differences of opinion.”
The Dodgers faltered earlier as well.
Casey Fien, who had not given up a run in eight games since joining the Dodgers, inherited a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning and gave up three runs — including two home runs — to the first four batters.
The Brewers’ 6-3 lead lasted for all of an inning, in large measure because center fielder Keon Broxton could not field the ball cleanly.
Thompson led off the inning with a double. One out later, Howie Kendrick singled him home, and Broxton bobbled the ball for an error. That allowed Kendrick to take second base, from where he could score on a single by Pederson. Broxton bobbled that ball too, another error, this one allowing Pederson to take second base.
From there, Pederson took third on a wild pitch and scored on that sacrifice fly — the one on which Grandal tagged up and almost botched the run — and the Dodgers had tied the score, 6-6.
It also mitigated an unimpressive evening for Kazmir, who needed 27 pitches to escape a scoreless first inning, 18 to escape a scoreless second.
The Brewers finally got on the scoreboard in the third inning. He needed 30 pitches for that inning, which included two singles, a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly. At one point, seven of the first 14 Milwaukee batters had reached base.
Kazmir was done after four innings, and 93 pitches.