LOS ANGELES >> Per usual this season, things appeared to be aligning perfectly for the Dodgers in Sunday’s sixth inning.
A Justin Turner fly ball and the sun couldn’t have lined up any better, at least – or worse as far as Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana was concerned. But that was where the Dodgers’ luck ran out.
Even an assist from the elements couldn’t cure the Dodgers’ slumping offense in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers in front of 51,355 at Dodger Stadium. Perhaps that remedy is coming Wednesday in the form of Cody Bellinger’s return from the disabled list.
The team with the best record in baseball has managed just 25 runs during the ongoing eight-game stretch – 3.1 per game – that has produced four of their 38 losses this season.
The Dodgers were shut out on Saturday before Sunday marked consecutive losses for the first time since July 20-21. In between losing a June 5-7 series to the Nationals and Sunday’s loss to the Brewers, the Dodgers won 19 series and tied two.
“Within our club offensively, that’s where we’re a little cold right now,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It happens to every ballclub at points during the season. You look at the guys throughout the lineup who aren’t swinging the bats the way they’re capable of, or have been this year, it’s all kind of happening at once.”
The Dodgers didn’t manage a hit through the first five innings on Sunday against Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson (10-6), who outpitched Dodgers counterpart Yu Darvish (2-1) in his return from the disabled list.
The trade acquisition from the Texas Rangers allowed three runs on six hits with three walks in his fourth start with his new team, raising his ERA from 2.50 to 3.88.
Darvish said his the lower back that landed him on the disabled list felt fine, that it was mechanical changes to his release point instituted while on the disabled list that were largely responsible for his first lackluster performance in a Dodgers uniform. Darvish is attempting to alter habits adopted after returning from the elbow replacement surgery he had in March of 2015
“I made big changes,” Darvish said, through an interpreter. “I had it pretty good in the bullpen sessions, but it was different during game time facing hitters. So that was me trying to make adjustments on the game mound.”
Nelson allowed both of his runs and three of his four hits during the sixth inning, one of which was Turner’s two-out fly ball Santana lost in the sun in shallow right field to allow the Dodgers’ second run across.
While he retired 14 of the first 16 Dodgers, Darvish allowed eight of the first 14 Brewers he faced to reach base. He likely would have escaped the first inning unscathed if not for an egregious Corey Seager error.
With runners on the corners, Seager let a slow-rolling, potential double-play ground ball through his legs for the Brewers’ first run.
“Just a weird hop,” Seager said. “I misplayed it. You don’t want to give them away that early, or later; really at all.”
The Brewers’ lead grew to 2-0 when Hernan Perez deposited a Darvish fastball in the third row of the left-field bleachers for a solo home run in a two-run third inning.
The next three batters reached base, but only Neil Walker scored on Santana’s RBI single thanks to Chris Taylor’s assist from center field, a throw that arrived so far ahead of Travis Shaw he didn’t bother to slide.
Nelson didn’t allow a hit until pinch-hitter Chase Utley singled up the middle with one out in the sixth inning. Seager made up for his first-inning error by driving in Utley, just the third Dodgers baserunner of the day, with a two-out single.
The Brewers momentarily wilted in the sixth after Nelson’s no-hit bid came to an end. Seager reached second base when his single to center wasn’t fielded cleanly and third on a wild pitch by Nelson.
Seager scored when Turner’s fly ball dropped next to Santana as the right fielder shielded his eyes from the sun, pulling the Dodgers within a run.
Nelson can at least be happy his team emerged with a win, something he couldn’t say after a stellar showing in his first start against the Dodgers this season. One June 2, Nelson didn’t allow a run in eight innings and gave up just five hits in a game the Dodgers won, 2-1, courtesy of a Bellinger home run in the 12th inning.
The Dodgers have managed just eight runs in their last four games against the Brewers, who trail the NL Central-leading Cubs by two games in the standings. Not exactly an encouraging record against a potential playoff opponent.
“(Brewers starter Zach) Davies didn’t miss a spot (Saturday) and Nelson did a really good job,” Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “He definitely changed his game plan as the game kept going on. He definitely kept us off-balance. The good thing is, if they make it to the playoffs we’ve already seen them twice in a year, so that’s going to be a different story then.”