LOS ANGELES — It ended with a big inning.
During their nine-game winning streak, the Dodgers had outscored their opponents 10-0 in the first innings and scored first in seven of the nine games. But the New York Mets got to Dodgers starter David Price for three runs in the first inning on Sunday, building on that to beat the Dodgers, 7-2, and hand them their first defeat since Aug. 12 in Philadelphia.
The Dodgers had trailed for a total of one half-inning over the previous week but they never caught up after the Mets’ head start Sunday.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock said, accurately – the Dodgers have won 13 of their past 15. “Today you can just throw it out. We didn’t play awful but we obviously didn’t come in and take care of business. Just get back at it, keep the train moving.”
Meanwhile, in Oakland, the San Francisco Giants have yet to run out of whatever magic pixie dust they have sprinkled over their season. They became the first team in MLB history to get pinch-hit home runs in the eighth inning or later to come from behind and take a lead in back-to-back games. Sunday’s resulted in a 2-1 victory over the A’s that dropped the Dodgers 2½ games back in the NL West.
“I actually didn’t notice it at that point in time. But obviously after the fact, I see what happened,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Like I’ve always said, we’ve still got to take care of business and win ballgames. Our fate is still in our own hands.”
During their winning streak, the Dodgers have taken matters into their own hands in two crucial ways, scoring first and shutting down the opposing team in key situations. Dodgers pitchers had held opposing batters to an .059 (4 for 68) batting average with runners in scoring position over the previous nine games. But the Mets had two hits in the first inning with runners in scoring position and an RBI double before that.
Price walked the leadoff man then gave up those three hits to the next five batters. Freshly returned from the Injured List, Javier Baez had the RBI double then J.D. Davis and Jonathan Villar drove in runs with RBI singles.
Price righted the ship after that, retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced in four innings and not allowing another hit.
“Leading off the game with a walk is never good,” Price said. “Starting the game in that fashion … that’s how runs get scored. I got hurt on a changeup by Baez. Backdoor cutter by J.D. Davis. He hit it through the four-hole to right. Then I made a good pitch to Villar, weak contact and he found some grass in the outfield.”
In the recently unfamiliar position of playing from behind, the Dodgers did little against Mets starter Marcus Stroman until the fourth inning. Singles by Corey Seager and Chris Taylor (a hard-hit ground ball that nearly left an exit wound on Davis at third base) and a walk of Pollock loaded the bases with two outs.
Cody Bellinger ripped a single into right field to drive in two runs. But with pinch-hitter Billy McKinney batting, Bellinger took off on what looked like a delayed double steal. Pollock never moved from third base, though, and Bellinger was quickly tagged out in a rundown when he held up between first and second.
Roberts took the blame for a missed sign that thwarted the Dodgers’ chance to tie the score.
“That was a miscommunication on my part,” he said. “I felt Cody had a really good opportunity to steal a base right there. He ended up thinking it was a ‘steal-and-stop’ versus a straight steal and go all the way.
“I own that. That was a miscommunication on my part.”
The Dodgers had just one more hit after that – a one-out double by Pollock in the seventh that proved pointless. Fifteen of the last 16 Dodgers were retired by Stroman and the Mets’ bullpen.
“Stroman is tough,” Pollock said. “He was out there making good pitches, battling. He’s just a grinder. We could have had better at-bats in a couple key spots. It just didn’t happen today.”
The Mets did help the Dodgers stay close in the sixth inning. After putting runners at second and third with no outs against Brusdar Graterol, Jonathan Villar struck out and Kevin Pillar bounced into an out at the plate with the infield in.
The Dodgers then intentionally walked the No. 8 hitter, Patrick Mazeika, to load the bases with two outs and force Mets manager Luis Rojas to make a choice. He chose badly, sending Stroman up to hit rather than a pinch-hitter.
Stroman (who pitched just one more inning) bounced weakly back to Graterol and the Mets came away with nothing from the inning.
But the Mets did extend their lead in the seventh inning. After Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford retired the first two batters, he gave up a double to Javier Baez then grooved a first-pitch fastball to Davis who redirected it into the right field pavilion for a two-run home run.
Shane Greene made his Dodgers debut in the ninth. It did not go well.
Greene faced five hitters and retired just one, hitting two others, giving up a single and walking a man with the bases loaded. Another run scored before Victor Gonzalez could end the inning.