LOS ANGELES -- It’s a three-game Interleague series in August, not a best-of-seven in October. But if Friday night’s Players’ Weekend opener between the Dodgers and Yankees really is a preview of the World Series, the Dodgers need to up their game.
The Yankees overwhelmed them, 10-2, in a showdown between two of the game’s best current teams and historic franchises.
“We haven’t had many games like this,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Fortunately, it only counts as one loss. You lose a battle, hopefully you win the war, as far as the series. We just have to turn the page. It was an ugly one. You play 162 games, games like that are bound to happen.”
The Yankees deployed the Dodgers’ way to win -- worked counts, punished mistakes and dominated with starting pitching from James Paxton. They were the first team to slug five homers in a game against the Dodgers this year. Didi Gregorius hit two, including a grand slam, and Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres added solo shots. Three of the blasts came off Dodgers Cy Young candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu, who didn’t get out of the fifth inning.
“Commanding pitches is the most important part of my game, and I obviously couldn’t do that. If you look at the pitches they hit for homers today, they all ended up in quadrants I didn’t want,” said Ryu, who suffered his first home loss of the season.
In 4 1/3 innings, Ryu (“류현진” for Players’ Weekend) was charged with seven runs, matching a season-worst he’d set at Coors Field. He has allowed five homers in his last two starts after serving up 10 in his first 22 starts. His MLB-leading ERA climbed from 1.64 to 2.00. He’s 12-4 after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this year.
Ryu said he feels healthy, he just didn’t have command of his pitches. Roberts said the velocity is there, but the consistency isn’t.
“I don’t know if fatigue is part of it,” said Roberts. “Still a lot of baseball to play. Right now, just two starts he wasn’t sharp.”
Neither was the Dodgers’ offense. Enrique Hernández, Thursday night’s walk-off hero, doubled twice to factor in the Dodgers’ two runs. But they also struck out 15 times.
"Paxton was really good tonight,” said Roberts. “Fastball 96-98, top of the zone. Curveball sharp. We just couldn't get good swings. On top of him being really good, I don't think too many of our guys have seen Paxton. So there was a lot of swing and miss out of the zone at the breaking ball down below. We typically don't do that. Hopefully, we'll get another crack at him at some point this season."
That was as close as Roberts came to linking this series to a third consecutive World Series for his club. Most of the postgame, however, was spent trying to explain how his team was so soundly beaten.
Judge got the Yankees on the board with one out in the third inning by blasting a 414-foot home run on a 1-2 changeup, his 14th and the first allowed at home by Ryu since April 26. One out later, Sanchez sent Ryu’s 1-1 cutter deep for his 29th home run and a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees blew it open in the fifth on a single by DJ LeMahieu, a blooper by Judge that beat the shift for a single, an intentional walk of Sanchez to load the bases and Gregorius’ slam, his 12th home run of the year and the first grand slam Ryu has allowed in the Major Leagues.
“I think it was the right choice to walk Sanchez,” said Ryu. “The pitch to Didi was a mistake. He did a good job jumping on the first pitch, and he hurt me there. I wish I made more pitches to expand the strike zone.”
Roberts said the game had the electricity of October.
“Before the first pitch, you could feel the excitement,” he said.