Dodgers' bats fall silent in Knack's debut

April 18th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- As the outs kept piling up, there was almost a sense of disbelief around Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers’ potent offense has proven time and time again that getting 27 outs against them doesn’t usually come very easily.

But for the first time in 2024, the Dodgers’ offense couldn’t get anything going in a 2-0 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. It’s the first time the Dodgers were shut out since July 30, 2023, against the Reds.

“We had a couple opportunities to tack on a run here and there,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But when it came down to it, [Nationals starter Jake Irvin] made pitches. There were a lot of strikeouts in there and a lot of soft contact. Clearly, our guys weren’t seeing the ball well.”

got the start for the Dodgers in what was his Major League debut. Knack’s first taste of the Majors was about as rough as it can get, giving up a leadoff homer to CJ Abrams on his second pitch. The 26-year-old right-hander, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Dodgers' No. 13 prospect, also gave up a second run in the inning.

But after he calmed his nerves, Knack was about as good as the Dodgers would have hoped. Knack retired the 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, and the only baserunner was wiped away in the fifth inning by a double play. In a week full of debuts for the Dodgers, Knack more than held his own, allowing two runs and striking out four over five innings.

“I had a little bit of nerves going,” Knack said. “I was excited but had the nerves just kind of sitting in there. Then, back end of the inning, we started to calm down,” Knack said. “After we got through that first inning, got back to doing things as normal and felt good after that.”

Roberts said Knack will stay in the Dodgers’ rotation at least one more time through. His next time out, however, the Dodgers’ offense hopes to help the right-hander much more than they did on Wednesday.

Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-4 with three singles, but that was about the extent of the offense for the Dodgers against Irvin and a Nationals bullpen that features a lot of power arms. Mookie Betts’ eight-game hitting streak came to an end and Freddie Freeman was the victim of some bad luck on three different balls put in play en route to an 0-for-3 day at the plate.

For the Dodgers, however, the real problem with the offense over the past week or so has been the bottom of the order. Coming into Wednesday, the top two in the Dodgers’ order have posted a 1.105 OPS. That, of course, is all Betts and Ohtani, who are both off to terrific starts.

The production drops down just a bit in the middle part of the order with a .832 OPS. That has mostly been Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy and Teoscar Hernández. The production really takes a fall when you look at the bottom third.

Through 20 games, the Dodgers’ lineup had a .471 OPS from the last three spots in the order. That only got worse on Wednesday as James Outman, Andy Pages and Gavin Lux combined to go 1-for-8 with four strikeouts. Kiké Hernández got a pinch-hit appearance in the seventh, and he popped up to the second baseman.

“They’re grinding. They’re in it,” Roberts said. “It’s certainly not for a lack of preparation or effort. Right now it’s just not happening for these guys. … I hate to make too much out of 40 at bats. Obviously, they’re going to get better and we’re going to keep running them out there.”

The track record suggests Roberts is right. Some players will get on a roll at some point and have much better performances. Games like these happen throughout the course of a season, even for an offense that carries three former MVPs.

With that being said, the off-day on Thursday couldn’t have come at a better time for the Dodgers, who have lost back-to-back series for the first time this season. When they return, they’ll need to figure out ways to win even when their stars aren’t carrying most of the responsibility.

“It’ll be nice to reset and get a new team in here,” Roberts said. “We’ll be up to play the Mets. We’ll be ready.”