SAN FRANCISCO -- Not since a quicksand trap was dug near first base at Candlestick Park to slow down basestealer Maury Wills in 1962 have the Dodgers been so undermined by a playing field as they were on Friday night at Oracle Park.
The home bullpen mound -- located in foul ground but in play -- turned into a 10th man to help the Giants to a 2-1 win, resulting in the Dodgers’ their first losing streak since April and Clayton Kershaw's first regular-season loss in nearly a year.
That’s where Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor found one in the worst way possible. He raced into foul territory and was about to catch a foul popup by Brandon Belt, who was leading off the bottom of the sixth inning of a scoreless tie. Taylor knew he was heading for the mound, but said he couldn’t take his eye off the ball. He hit the back of the mound, stumbled and went sprawling as the ball dropped.
“I was trying to high-step, but it’s a pretty steep back edge, so you don’t know when it’s coming,” said Taylor. “I mean, it would be nice if they got a bullpen like everybody else behind the outfield.”
With the at-bat extended, Belt worked a walk, triggering a winning two-run rally that included an RBI single by Kevin Pillar, a Kershaw wild pitch and a Brandon Crawford RBI ground ball to a drawn-in second baseman Max Muncy, whose throw home couldn’t erase Evan Longoria, running on contact.
Kershaw was self-critical of walking Belt, who was 4-for-56 against him.
“You can’t let little mistakes beat you, like leadoff walks and two-strike hits,” he said.
But Kershaw also had a suggestion for Farhan Zaidi, the former Dodgers general manager who now is Giants president of baseball operations.
“Let’s go, Farhan, clean it up over here,” said Kershaw. “It’s a relatively new ballpark and they should have thought about it. I’m sure Farhan will make a change soon.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knows firsthand the pitfalls of chasing fly balls over and around mounds, having played in this park for the Giants and once making a circus catch running up Tal’s Hill in Houston while with the Dodgers.
“That’s an 0-2 pitch right there,” said Roberts. “Rewind a couple months ago and [Giants outfielder Steve] Duggar got hurt on a ball down the right-field line. It absolutely changes that inning, completely changed the complexion of that inning, absolutely.
“I don’t want to get too much into it, but oversight seems to come into mind. It is what it is. Putting players in harm’s way and dictating a game, more so putting players in harm’s way. It’s a liability, but you’ve got to make do.”
The only other MLB parks with bullpens in play are the Oakland Coliseum and Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field.
With Taylor’s solo homer in the eighth their only offense, the Dodgers lost their second straight game for the first time since April 23-24 at Wrigley Field. Kershaw suffered his first regular-season loss since July 21 at Milwaukee. He had gone 21 consecutive starts without a loss, and the Dodgers were 19-2 in those games. It was Kershaw’s first loss in San Francisco since Oct. 1, 2016.
“Just another sign of a great team,” said Kershaw. “For a streak like that to happen, you’ve got to be on a great team.”