Despite a disappointing 2-5 homestand, the Dodgers hoped to carry some momentum from a dominant win over the Reds on Wednesday. They scored six runs in the eighth inning against Cincinnati, which was more in tune with the offense that helped the club get off to a 13-2 start.
That momentum didn’t carry over into Thursday, as the Dodgers’ offense was held in check yet again in a 2-1 loss to the Brewers at American Family Field. Los Angeles is now 3-7 in its last 10 games and has fallen out of first place in the National League West for the first time since the opening weekend.
The Dodgers recorded nine hits in the loss and didn’t have many opportunities against Brewers starter Eric Lauer, who improved to a dominant 6-0 in his career against Los Angeles. The Dodgers had better at-bats against a potent Brewers bullpen, including an Austin Barnes RBI single in the ninth off closer Josh Hader. Mookie Betts, however, flied out to right field to end the game.
“He’s got our number, I guess. He makes pitches against us,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, when asked about Lauer’s success. “He mixes a little bit with the cutter, the changeup, the breaking ball. You have to give him credit. He has our number.”
Thursday marked the sixth time in their last 10 games that the Dodgers recorded three runs or fewer. Outside of Justin Turner, who is tied for second in the NL with 20 RBIs, the Dodgers’ offense is struggling. Betts extended his on-base streak to 21 games, but his OPS is still barely hovering around league average. Max Muncy is walking at a historic pace so far this season, but only has two hits since April 17.
The Dodgers have continuously said that their offense will be fine. History says that’ll happen. But they need to start showing consistent results sooner rather than later.
“I think you just have to understand that we’re taking good at-bats, we’re hitting the ball hard and eventually they’ll go back to finding holes,” Turner said. “And we’ll be able to pass the baton like we’re used to.”
While the offense struggled, Trevor Bauer delivered another strong performance despite not having his best stuff. Bauer struck out six and allowed two runs over eight innings of work. The Brewers recorded nine hard-hit balls off Bauer, the most he’s allowed this season. One pitch in particular that Bauer would probably like back is a knuckle curve to Travis Shaw, which went for a two-run homer in the fourth.
“I think that ironically, it was the night that he didn’t have his best stuff with command and teeth to his pitches,” Roberts said. “You just have to commend him for grinding and putting us in a position to win a baseball game.”
As dominant as Bauer has been this season, the right-hander has often been a victim of the long ball. Ten of the 12 runs against Bauer this season have come via seven home runs. He allowed just nine homers in 73 innings last season.
“I was behind a lot more than I would’ve liked tonight, so it was frustrating,” Bauer said. “I knew it was going to be a little bit of a battle today, so happy how it turned out. It was a battle, for not being super sharp and for the first [eastern road] trip, I thought it was OK. I was happy to be able to battle through it like that.”
One positive for Bauer and the Dodgers is that the right-hander’s ability to pitch eight innings gives Los Angeles plenty of fresh arms for Friday’s scheduled bullpen game. But as has been the case over the last two weeks, the Dodgers will need more production out of their offense.
“It’s definitely not a lack of preparation, lack of focus, lack of talent,” Roberts said. “It’s just one of those things that we’re not consistently, as an offensive unit, in lockstep, and that happens at different parts of the season.”