Roberto Hernandez started for the Rays and allowed five runs on eight hits en route to his 12th loss of the season. The veteran right-hander finished just four innings, echoing the pitching staff's recent problems.
In four of the Rays' past five games, the starter has not made it into the sixth inning save for David Price, who started Friday night and deserved a better fate after pitching seven innings and leaving the game with a 6-1 lead that the bullpen lost.
"It's been uncharacteristic pitching-wise in general," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been pitching so well, both starters and bullpen. But we have not in the recent past. We scored enough runs in recent games, but we could not hold it. Today we just got outpitched, outplayed today."
The Dodgers got busy early on Saturday.
Nick Punto's one-out infield single in the first set the table for Adrian Gonzalez, who followed with his 16th homer of the season to put the Dodgers up, 2-0.
"The ball, a little bit down," Hernandez said. "Everybody knows that guy is a good hitter."
Starting pitcher Zack Greinke ignited another Dodgers rally in the third when he drew a leadoff walk. Carl Crawford then doubled to right before Punto singled through the middle to drive home both runners for a 4-0 lead.
"I don't want to walk [Greinke]," Hernandez said. "That guy I think can hit. I don't want to miss with the pitch."
Los Angeles loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth when A.J. Ellis came through with a sacrifice fly that scored Andre Ethier to put the Dodgers up 5-0. The Rays dodged further trouble in the inning when they turned the sac fly into a double play. Evan Longoria pulled off the hidden-ball trick, tagging Juan Uribe for the second out.
Clearly, Hernandez's bread-and-butter pitch, the sinker, did not have the requisite diving action needed to be successful Saturday.
"After the first inning everything was flat and up too much," Hernandez said.
"Today he was just not sharp," Maddon said. "You can see that from Jump Street. It wasn't even about the home run to Adrian, it's walking Greinke to allow that inning to set up. That's the bigger play. That's what you didn't want to permit to happen."
At the other end of Saturday's spectrum stood Greinke (10-3), who limited the Rays to six hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
"I'm pitching better for the most part," Greinke said. "I'm getting out of some jams, there could be some luck involved with that. For the most part, I'm executing pitches and all of them are a lot sharper.
"I definitely wasn't perfect, but I made some good pitches. I mixed it up a lot, more than usual. That was the plan, and I stayed with it and it worked well."
Greinke reached double-digit wins for the sixth consecutive season, looking sharp, as usual, to Longoria.
"He was good," Longoria said. "He's a guy that constantly mixes his pitches and doesn't really fall into any patterns. I don't know if he was doing it on purpose, but his fastball for some reason was cutting away from me today.
"He's kind of one of those guys who hits his spots early in the game and doesn't really mix his pitches a whole lot until he needs to. And then he goes to the well and all of his pitches are plus."
Saturday's loss clearly wasn't as tough to swallow as the come-from-behind defeat Wednesday at Arizona and Friday night in the first game of this series. Nevertheless, the team is headed in a different direction than it was a week ago.
"I just think there was several games that we had a chance to win and we gave them up," Maddon said. "That's not normally our DNA. We'll get back to being who we are. It's just that everything is not flowing as it had been. Happens. I'm not concerned. We'll be fine. Dodgers got us. Diamondbacks hit the ball well against us and we gave up two games, so that's part of it."