LOS ANGELES -- From Koufax to Kershaw, poor run support has undermined too many great starts from Dodgers pitchers. But when it happened Thursday night to No. 1 prospect Walker Buehler, manager Dave Roberts showed the frustration borne of endless missed opportunities."It's been a trend that we've seen all year
LOS ANGELES -- From Koufax to Kershaw, poor run support has undermined too many great starts from Dodgers pitchers. But when it happened Thursday night to No. 1 prospect Walker Buehler, manager Dave Roberts showed the frustration borne of endless missed opportunities.
"It's been a trend that we've seen all year -- with some positive signs -- but recently we've had a chance to break a game open, get breathing room for our pitchers, and we haven't been able to come through," Roberts said after a 4-1 loss to the Reds, who came into the game with the worst record in the National League.
"Whether it's too big of a swing, bad approach, get out of the strike zone, lining out, whatever it might be -- we had this guy [Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle] on the hook tonight early -- 60-something pitches after two, 80-something pitches after three. He ends up going five innings. The last six innings, their pitching staff faced the minimum amount of batters.
"Walker pitched his tail off, and he had no margin for error and he ends up wearing the loss. It's very frustrating, and I expect those guys in the clubhouse to be frustrated, as well as I am. For us to have a below-average record at home (8-10), unacceptable. We better be ready to come play tomorrow. That's it."
Fresh from his starring role in the combined no-hitter of the Padres in Mexico, Buehler added five scoreless innings for a total of 15 straight until the sixth inning, when hitting clinician Joey Votto worked an eight-pitch at-bat for a two-out single to set up Scooter Gennett's two-run double on a hanging slider in a 35-pitch inning. Gennett later homered off Daniel Hudson.
Buehler struck out eight without a walk while suffering his first Major League loss and has a 1.64 ERA. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth.
"I've got to finish the guy off," Buehler said of Gennett, repeating the thought when discussing the Votto at-bat. "I came out of the game losing, and that's on me. I've got to pitch better. I can't give up two runs when we only have one."
The Dodgers had plenty of chances against Mahle to provide Buehler with margin for error. They loaded the bases in the first inning, scoring only an unearned run on Chase Utley's RBI single. They loaded the bases in the second inning, and stranded everybody. They had runners on first and second in the third and still didn't score.
It was a Vegas-worthy magic act by Mahle, like Buehler a 23-year-old rookie, who ran up an exhausting 85 pitches through three innings, but gutted it out through five innings and 109 pitches to keep his club in the game and improve to 3-4 on the season.
Although the Dodgers are playing without injured infielders Justin Turner, Corey Seager and John Forsythe, Roberts said his active players are not making the necessary offensive adjustments, with one exception that accounted for the lone run.
"Chase shortened his swing and put the barrel to it and got it moving forward," Roberts said. "If you can't make adjustments mechanically, there's going to be some empty at-bats, a lot of empty at-bats, and that's what's happening. We talk about it in the clubhouse. This isn't a try league. Everyone's trying. You've got to get production."
But leadoff man Chris Taylor is hitting .229, Yasiel Puig is at .208 without a home run and Cody Bellinger has nine strikeouts in his last five games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leaving 'em loaded: Puig and Bellinger left the bases loaded in the first and second innings, respectively, so take your pick on which missed opportunity mattered the most.
HE SAID IT
"That kid was something, and he was coming off a great performance last week, but we hung around." -- Reds manager Jim Riggleman, on Buehler
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Three of Buehler's four starts have come against last-place teams, and he's in line to make that four of five next week when he starts in Miami.
The Dodgers draw Matt Harvey's first start for the Reds in Friday night's 7:10 p.m. PT game, with Kenta Maeda pitching for the Dodgers. That should mean a start at second base for Utley, who is 6-for-18 with a homer off Harvey. Matt Kemp has four hits off Harvey, three of them homers.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.