Dodgers' division title struggles deepen with loss to last-place Arizona

·4 min read
The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw flips a new baseball after giving up a homer to Arizona's Carson Kelly on Sept. 25, 2021.
The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw reacts after surrendering a second-inning homer to the Diamondbacks' Carson Kelly. Kershaw gave up four runs, three earned, in 4 1/3 innings. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

It was set up to be a night of reaching milestones and making up, or at the very least maintaining, valuable ground in the National League West standings.

Instead, the Dodgers suffered a dismal string of results on Saturday, losing 7-2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks as their deficit to the San Francisco Giants in the division race doubled from one game to two.

With more than a week remaining in the regular season, a two-game gap isn’t insurmountable; nor is it fatal for a Dodgers team that, at worst, has clinched a spot in the wild-card game.

Still, Saturday seemed like a day for the Dodgers (99-56) to strengthen their spot in the standings, not stumble further from the division lead.

They were facing the last-place Diamondbacks, a team they’d beaten in 15 of 17 previous meetings. They had Clayton Kershaw on the mound and, after he had missed time this past week with a neck injury, Chris Taylor back in the starting lineup. They were on the verge of crossing the 100-win threshold for the ninth time in club history. Most of the 28,026 in attendance at Chase Field were clad in blue. But Kershaw got knocked around, giving up four runs (three earned) in just 4 1/3 innings. The defense made mistakes, committing two errors early. And the lineup went cold, recording just five hits and scoring only on a pair of solo home runs by Trea Turner.

“We got behind early and couldn’t recover,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It wasn’t a well-played game tonight.”

After suffering only their 11th defeat of at least five runs this season, the Dodgers were greeted with more bad news in the clubhouse too: The Giants had overcome an early deficit in their game against the Colorado Rockies, gaining a little extra breathing room at the top of the standings.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner makes a throwing error during the fourth inning Sept. 25, 2021.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner makes a fourth-inning throwing error that allowed a run to score. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

“Obviously we’re watching what they do, we definitely are looking at the scoreboard and things like that, but we can’t control that,” Kershaw said. “So we’re not super worried about what they’re doing … It’s hard to focus on your game and hope they lose.”

The Dodgers trailed the Diamondbacks (50-105) from Kershaw’s first pitch, an outside fastball that Ketel Marte drove to left for a home run.

It was the start of a recurring problem for Kershaw on Saturday, as the left-hander failed to retire any of the five leadoff hitters he faced to begin innings.

In the second, Carson Kelly hit a solo homer. Christian Walker scored on a Justin Turner throwing error in the fourth after hitting a leadoff single. And Marte scored for the second time after beginning the fifth with a base hit and being driven home by Daulton Varsho two batters later — Kershaw’s final action of the night.

“Had a few good throws in there,” said Kershaw, who had three strikeouts in his third start back from an elbow injury. “But overall it wasn’t great.”

The Dodgers got on the board in the top of the sixth after Trea Turner hit a solo home run deep to left. The best news for them at that point, however, was that the Giants were trailing the Rockies by one.

It didn’t last. During the bottom of the sixth in Phoenix, Brandon Belt put the Giants in front in Denver with a three-run homer.

Both results would hold from there, the Giants finishing off their win while the Dodgers failed to mount any serious comeback threat.

Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen finished a six-inning, one-run start with eight strikeouts and only three hits given up.

The Diamondbacks lineup added one insurance run off David Price in the seventh and two more against Evan Phillips in the eighth.

The Dodgers' Trea Turner celebrates his sixth-inning home run with Max Muncy on Sept. 25, 2021.
The Dodgers' Trea Turner celebrates his sixth-inning home run with Max Muncy. Turner homered again in the ninth. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

And, aside from Trea Turner’s second homer in the ninth, the Arizona bullpen stifled the Dodgers over the final three innings — denying them their 100th win, and, more consequently, giving them an even steeper hill to climb to avoid the one-game wild-card round.

“Trailing by two games with seven to go, yeah, it hurts,” Roberts said. “But what we have to do is win tomorrow. Things can still change, but we’ve got to win the games we’re supposed to win.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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