LOS ANGELES -- Gavin Lux smacked Camilo Doval’s 99 mph fastball to left-center field and immediately thought the ball was going over the fence. Lux raised his right arm in celebration. The 53,299 people packed into Dodger Stadium were ready to erupt. Everyone inside the Dodgers dugout thought they had just tied the game.
But in one of the strangest nights in Dodger Stadium history -- one that featured furious 15-20 mph winds throughout the game -- Lux’s ball died in the air and ultimately landed in Steven Duggar’s glove for the final out of the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss to the Giants on Monday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
Lux stood at first base in disbelief, his arms on his waist. The ball had an expected batting average of .890. On almost any other night, the Dodgers would’ve likely been celebrating a game-tying homer. Instead, their season will be on the line in Game 4 on Tuesday.
“My stomach pretty much sank when he hit it,” said Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. “I couldn’t believe that it didn’t [go out]. But I guess it was just our night tonight.”
The Dodgers were shut out for the second time in three games, though this one did come with some unlucky breaks under some unusual conditions. Including Lux’s game-ending flyout, which had an exit velocity of 107 mph, the Dodgers hit into seven outs on balls with exit velocities over 100 mph, tying their single-game high this season.
This marked the first time the Dodgers were shut out twice in a three-game span since the start of the 2018 season, also against the Giants. Now Los Angeles will have to defy postseason odds in order to advance to the NL Championship Series. In postseason history, the Game 3 winner in any best-of-five series that was tied 1-1 has gone on to win the series 39 of 54 times (72%).
“The wind played a big factor. A lot of balls in the outfield just didn’t carry, but that’s not why we lost,” said Dodgers catcher Will Smith. “We need to do a little more and move the ball over and get some more runs across.”
After fighting his command in the first inning, Dodgers right-hander Max Scherzer delivered seven strong innings, allowing one run and striking out 10 -- his fifth career double-digit performance in the postseason. His only mistake came to Longoria, who delivered the game-winning homer in the fifth.
This was one of those moments that demonstrated why the Dodgers acquired him back in July. They wanted his postseason experience and his dominant right arm. The future Hall of Famer delivered. His offense, however, did not.
“Once I was able to get through the second inning, that’s when I really felt like I found some rhythm and was able to start executing pitches,” Scherzer said. “Then from that point forward, I was able to execute with five pitches. But when you get to the postseason, you can always lose by one pitch. That comes into play. Tonight, I lost it on one pitch.”
For five innings, the Dodgers couldn’t get anything going against left-hander Alex Wood, who kept his former team off-balance through 4 2/3. Albert Pujols, who got his first postseason start since Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS, was the only Dodger to record a hit off Wood, with two singles.
Once the Giants went to the bullpen, the Dodgers began to get more traffic on the bases. Their best opportunity to score came in the seventh inning against right-hander Tyler Rogers when Steven Souza Jr. and Smith hit back-to-back one-out singles to create some stress.
But the Giants turned to left-hander Jake McGee, who proceeded to strike out pinch-hitter Austin Barnes on three pitches for the second out. Then, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford made the defensive play of the series.
Crawford robbed Mookie Betts of a game-tying single as he leaped and snagged a liner that had an exit velocity of 100 mph and an xBA of .870. That was the Dodgers’ last chance with runners on, as Doval was able to retire all six hitters he faced over the last two innings.
“I think that if you look at tonight, obviously the results are that we got shut out,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But I do think that tonight there were some good at-bats. The Mookie at-bat, the lineout, the two balls that I thought were home runs. … Collectively, I thought we did a nice job tonight. Better than kind of the goose eggs we threw out.”
While better, the reality is that the offensive output wasn’t enough for the Dodgers, who led the National League in runs during the regular season. If they don’t find an answer, their terrific season will end much sooner than they expected.
“It’s tough to swallow, tough game,” Pujols said. “We lost today but, hey, you need to flip that page and come back tomorrow and try to win again tomorrow.”