LOS ANGELES -- In just his third career start, Dodgers left-hander Caleb Ferguson didn't make too many mistakes Sunday afternoon against the Giants. But on the two occasions he did, San Francisco made the rookie hurler pay.Ferguson (0-1, 7.59 ERA) was solid, relinquishing only two hits and a walk over
LOS ANGELES -- In just his third career start, Dodgers left-hander Caleb Ferguson didn't make too many mistakes Sunday afternoon against the Giants. But on the two occasions he did, San Francisco made the rookie hurler pay.
Ferguson (0-1, 7.59 ERA) was solid, relinquishing only two hits and a walk over five innings. He even struck out a career-best six batters. But four runs (three earned) scored on the two hits he allowed -- a pair of two-run home runs. The blasts proved enough, as Los Angeles was beaten, 4-1, in the series finale at Dodger Stadium, snapping its season-high five-game win streak.
"Today of the three was [Ferguson's] best outing," manager Dave Roberts said. "I thought he did a good job pounding the strike zone."
Ferguson, 21, is one of many pitchers pressed into starting duty for Los Angeles amid a season in which its rotation has been riddled with injuries. His outing Sunday, by his own estimation, was "definitely" better than his previous two starts.
Still, the Giants got after Ferguson early. Catcher Nick Hundley hammered a no-doubt, two-run shot that traveled a projected 432 feet, according to Statcast™, during the top of the first to put the Dodgers behind, 2-0. San Francisco got the better of Ferguson again in the third inning, when Brandon Belt cranked a two-run shot to extend the lead to 4-1.
Otherwise, Ferguson managed his outing relatively well. Sandwiched between the first and third frames in which he gave up homers was a strong second inning during which he struck out each of the three batters he faced. He retired the last eight batters he faced and posted 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth prior to being lifted after throwing 84 pitches.
"Caleb is still adjusting," Roberts said. "He's up for whatever challenge is presented to him. To his credit, he's been very flexible. The good thing with Caleb, with each start he's getting more comfortable and progressively better."
Ferguson's performance Sunday perhaps displayed the type of potential the Dodgers see in the southpaw -- and reason he possibly could remain in the rotation as a fifth starter in the wake of Rich Hill returning next week -- even as he displayed some growing pains. Roberts said the club hasn't decided if it will send Ferguson back down to Triple-A Oklahoma City ahead of its six-game road trip.
"That's a possibility," Roberts said.
The Dodgers offense, which has been hot as of late, didn't provide Ferguson much run support Sunday. Entering the contest, Los Angeles' team marks for batting average (.276), on-base percentage (.364), slugging (.581) and OPS (.939) were each tops in the National League this month. The club's 34 homers through 13 games were the most clubbed by a team in the Majors this month.
Mostly responsible for Los Angeles' quiet night at the dish was Giants starter Chris Stratton (8-4, 4.22), who tossed a quality outing. The right-hander permitted just three hits -- one of them Ferguson's first Major League hit -- and one walk while striking out three. The Dodgers managed an unearned run against Stratton on Hundley's throwing error during the first inning, but largely were unable to figure Stratton out.
"[Stratton] was hitting his spots," Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger said.
The Dodgers didn't hit a home run for the first time in 13 games. Roberts still thought they did well generating hard contact.
"I don't think we're sitting back waiting to slug," Roberts said. "I think today we took some good swings and the ball just didn't go out of the ballpark."
Despite the loss, the Dodgers earned their season-best ninth straight series victory. Los Angeles moved to 37-33 overall following its eight-game homestand.
Having surged into second place in the NL West and moving 1 1/2 games behind the first-place D-backs, the Dodgers open a six-game road trip Monday before returning to Dodger Stadium on June 25.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dodgers respond early: The Dodgers managed to sneak in a run in the first inning thanks to a wild pitch by Stratton. Los Angeles had runners on the corners when Hundley, who started in place of five-time All-Star Buster Posey for the second time this series Sunday, couldn't locate a curveball that rolled in the dirt beneath him. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner headed for second base as Hundley picked up the ball, but the backstop's throw got by shortstop Brandon Crawford, rolling behind him to allow Player Page for Max Muncy to score easily from third. The run trimmed the Dodgers' early deficit in half, 2-1.
"That was a great read by Justin on a ball in the dirt," Roberts said. "He got a good jump on it. Hundley picked it clean and somehow I think Crawford got shielded by the umpire and missed it. [It was] not a hit-and-run."
Hudson gets out of trouble:Daniel Hudson's relief outing began inauspiciously when the right-hander plunked Giants center fielder Gorkys Hernandez to start the eighth inning. Hudson recovered, induced Belt to fly out and struck out Andrew McCutchen, but back-to-back walks of Hundley and Crawford loaded the bases for Mac Williamson. On a 2-2 count, Hudson tossed an 87 mph slider over the heart of the plate that Williamson hit toward Turner, who threw to second for a forceout to end the inning. The play kept the Dodgers within three runs.
"We hadn't gone to Huddy in a week so he was fresh for two innings," Roberts said. "He made big pitches when he needed to. [Erik] Goeddel also gave us two innings. For those guys to give us two innings each was big for the 'pen."
Muncy, who went 0-for-3 with a walk, has reached base safely in 11 of 12 games in June. He is slashing .308/.460/.795 with six home runs and 11 RBIs this month.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Less than a day removed from a big night at the plate, Enrique Hernandez helped his pitcher with an impressive defensive effort Sunday afternoon. During the top of the fifth inning, Hernandez leapt in the air to snag a line drive from Gorkys Hernandez, capping off a 1-2-3 frame by Ferguson, his second of the day.
HE SAID IT
"I thought all facets of our club were clicking. When we didn't score a ton of runs, we still pitched well enough to win. Defensively, we were sound the whole homestand and we're taking really good at-bats." -- Roberts, on the Dodgers' 6-2 record over their eight-game homestand
First up in the Dodgers' six-game road trip is a visit to Chicago for a three-game series. Right-hander Kenta Maeda (4-4, 3.61 ERA) will take the mound for the Dodgers, while the Cubs will counter with right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 4.12) in Monday's series opener. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. PT.
Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.