LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' August swoon continued Tuesday night with a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals, a ninth defeat in the last 13 games leaving them 3 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona.
Kenley Jansen's irregular heartbeat and the bullpen meltdowns that followed have consumed recent headlines, but even the acquisitions of Manny Machado and James Dozier haven't resolved an offense that has been erratic throughout the year, relying on the home run to an extreme.
"It's more than just putting really good players together and now you're going to score seven or eight runs a night," said manager Dave Roberts. "The players we've acquired have done a great job, it's getting everybody else synched up. We get guys on base, now it's moving the line, and we're having a hard time doing that, let alone the two-out hit."
Roberts repeatedly used the word "frustration" after the second consecutive loss to a Cardinals team that is starting rookie pitchers in all three games of the series. He said Dodgers hitters are patient and selective with nobody on base, but get too aggressive and chase when there's a chance to drive in runs.
"As you're mired in this, it doesn't feel good," Roberts said. "It's a little contagious. You look around the room, these guys have a track record and that's something we expect them to come out of it. We have very good players. They're going to hit. They understand what's at stake."
The Dodgers led first, 1-0, on a gift run in the second inning, but Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed a two-run homer to Yadier Molina in a three-run third. Ryu wasn't as sharp in his second start off the disabled list as he was in his first. Roberts pinch-hit Dozier for Ryu in the bottom of the fourth, in part because of pitch count, but mostly because there were runners on second and third with one out and the Dodgers trailed, 3-1.
"We're having a tough time scoring runs, you look at the opportunities to tack on a run or two," he said. "Tonight I felt Ryu had one more inning, but you look who's coming up and who's available in the 'pen and we had a chance to score a couple of runs right there."
But Dozier struck out and Joc Pederson flied out to center. On the night, the Dodgers went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11, after leaving 14 runners on base in the series-opening loss. The Dodgers added 10 strikeouts to the 12 they had Monday night.
That left five innings for the bullpen, and Daniel Hudson allowed a two-run homer to Marcell Ozuna in the seven, plenty of insurance with the Dodgers' only response being Machado's fifth home run since the trade in the seventh inning, a solo shot estimated by Statcast™ at 423 feet. It was the 29th overall for Machado, who went 3-for-4.
"Got to play better baseball; it's simple. Not going to make excuses," said Machado. "This shall pass. At this point of the year, we've just got to keep grinding. We're just around the corner from turning this around."
Cody Bellinger agreed.
"I think it's frustrating for all of us, honestly," said Bellinger, who singled and scored the first run when Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. "For whatever reason, we go through these stretches as a team. We did it last year, and we do come out of it. That's just the cycle of baseball."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the eighth, the Dodgers had a pair of walks and a single that nearly maimed Cardinals reliever Carlos Martinez, and they still came away empty. A Puig double-play grounder wiped out one walk, and on the frightening 110-mph line drive by Pederson off the chest of Martinez, Kiké Hernandez was caught too far off second base and was nailed by first baseman Matt Carpenter's throw to end the inning.
Rookie Caleb Ferguson struck out the side in the ninth. He has 45 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.
HE SAID IT
"It might have cost us the game. It was unnecessary, aggressive baserunning that can't happen, especially the way things are going lately, with a hot [Justin Turner] coming up. Dumb, dumb and dumber. No excuse. I messed up." -- Hernandez, on getting thrown out at second in the eighth
Walker Buehler opposes Southland native Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals in Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. PT series finale. Buehler overcame one shaky inning in his previous start in Seattle and was mostly dominant, with eight strikeouts in six innings. He's never faced the Cardinals.