Puig homers again but Dodgers come up short
Offense unable to solve Marquis; Fife turns in quality start
SAN DIEGO -- As special as Wednesday's Interleague doubleheader at Yankee Stadium was, the Dodgers returned to the National League West on Thursday night, and there was nothing special about it.
Yasiel Puig homered but struck out three times, and A.J. Ellis also homered in a 6-3 loss to the Padres, whom the Dodgers trail by six games.
The loss was very much in keeping with Dodgers weaknesses all year. They were outplayed on defense and outpitched in relief as they fell to 9-22 within the division and 11-21 on the road.
The Dodgers committed two more errors (they lead the league with 54), the bullpen allowed four runs and the offense went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Although Adrian Gonzalez made one glove gem for the Dodgers, the Padres had a handful, diving all over the field and even into the stands to make catches.
Starting pitchers Stephen Fife and Jason Marquis dueled to a no-decision draw, each pitching six innings and allowing two runs, one of Fife's unearned. San Diego got four hits and a walk against Fife, who struck out six.
"We haven't seemed to be able to solve the Jason Marquis riddle," said manager Don Mattingly. "He's continued to have our number."
Puig went 0-for-3 with a strikeout when he faced Marquis in Los Angeles in his third Major League game. He needed only one pitch to make a different impression this time by launching his sixth homer of the year to right-center in Petco Park, where few right-handed hitters go opposite field.
It was hard to give Puig credit for adjusting, because Marquis missed his catcher's outside target by a couple of feet. Nonetheless, the solo shot left Puig 12-for-14 with four homers when he swings at the first pitch.
"I left it up a little bit and he put a good swing on it, but as the game goes on, you try to exploit the weaknesses," Marquis said. "With men on base, I just wasn't going to let that happen this time."
With the talented but undisciplined Puig, the Dodgers must take the bad with the good and hope he learns the subtleties -- like laying off pitches down and away and hitting the cutoff man -- that his rush through the Minor Leagues hasn't allowed.
In Puig's next at-bat, with two on and no out in the third inning, he took a sinker he thought was too far inside and stared at the umpire.
"It seemed to irritate Yasiel and he started to swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and the rest of the night Marquis didn't give in," Mattingly said. "Yasiel has been fairly patient, tonight [he was] more aggressive out of the strike zone."
He swung wildly at the next sinker and foul-tipped it. Marquis then came with a pair of down-and-away sliders Puig flailed at. Puig stared at Marquis as he headed toward the dugout and Marquis stared back.
When the staring ended and play resumed, Gonzalez struck out and Hanley Ramirez hit a bullet right at third baseman Chase Headley to end the inning. Puig's next at-bat was a four-pitch strikeout, all three strikes on swing-and-miss sliders down and away.
"You can start to see what they're trying to do with him, but only certain guys can do it," Mattingly said. "They've got to have the right type of movement. It will be up to Yasiel to control the strike zone and stay in it and he'll be fine. He expands, he'll have trouble. It's his job to stay within the zone. I haven't seen him swing and miss this much. He's a quick learner and he'll make adjustments."
Poor defense put Fife in a jam in the fifth. Alexi Amarista led off with a single and one out later Pedro Ciriaco hit a broken-bat flare that second baseman Mark Ellis attempted to charge and turn into a double play but came up empty for an error, with Amarista taking third.
"Not a hard play, one I make a 100 times," Ellis said. "It was a big momentum change. They played very good defense, better defense than we did. My error was huge."
With Marquis squaring to bunt but taking and Amarista bluffing to come home, Ciriaco stole second without a throw. Marquis then singled home Amarista with Ciriaco taking third. Logan Forsythe singled home Ciriaco. Will Venable flied to the warning track in right-center and Puig tried to show off his arm with a throw to third, which allowed Forsythe to take second. Puig's fundamental mistake didn't cost the Dodgers as Fife struck out Headley for the third time.
The Dodgers came right back to tie. Ramirez singled (8-for-12 in his past three games), went to third on that healed hamstring when Andre Ethier singled, and scored on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly.
Matt Guerrier took over for Fife to start the seventh and Yasmani Grandal shot a ball into the left-field corner that disappeared behind the foul pole for a ground-rule double. With the Dodgers expecting a bunt, Ciriaco cleared the shallow outfielders in left-center for an RBI triple to break the tie.
Paco Rodriguez came on to get pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay on a popup, walked Forsythe intentionally to set up the Dodgers' defensive play of the game, a safety-squeeze bunt by Venable that a charging Gonzalez from first base shoveled with his glove to catcher A.J. Ellis, who tagged out Ciriaco. But Headley followed with an RBI single to chase Rodriguez.
Ciriaco slugged a two-run homer off Peter Moylan in the eighth and A.J. Ellis answered with a solo shot in the ninth off Huston Street.