Bad pitch proves costly

Fowler hits go-ahead solo homer in eighth on a poorly placed cut­ter by Stripling.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Andy McCul­lough


ST. LOUIS — When the base­ball left his hand, Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling knew his aim would not be true. He in­tended to hand­cuff St. Louis out­fielder Dex­ter Fowler with a cut fast­ball at the fists. In­stead, he watched, help­less, as the ball spun over the cen­ter of the plate.

“It just fiz­zled over the mid­dle,” Stripling said. “It was kind of a bum­mer.”

In a 2-1 defeat Wed­nes­day, the Dodgers had a win­ning streak end at six games thanks to the bat of Fowler and the right arm of starter Carlos Martinez. Fowler blasted a tiebreak­ing home run in the eighth in­ning off Stripling’s mis­placed cut­ter. The solo shot made a vic­tor out of Martinez, who shut down the Dodgers across eight in­nings.

The duo spoiled an en­cour­ag­ing, in­trigu­ing even­ing from Hyun-Jin Ryu, who may have com­pli­cated the Dodgers’ ever-shift­ing start­ing ro­ta­tion with his per­for­mance. By log­ging six in­nings of one-run base­ball, Ryu staked his case to sup­plant Kenta Maeda as the team’s fifth starter. Ryu gave up three hits in his most ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive out­ing since

his shoul­der surgery in 2015.

Last week, with Ryu hov­er­ing in the sixth spot on the team’s start­ing depth chart, team of­fi­cials hag­gled with him over how to tran­si­tion to the bullpen. Ryu teamed with Maeda to shut down the Car­di­nals at Dodger Sta­dium; Maeda got the win, Ryu got the first save of his ca­reer. Yet, the tan­dem split this week, af­ter Alex Wood was put on the dis­abled list be­cause of in­flam­ma­tion in the ster­num.

Man­ager Dave Roberts de­scribed the in­jury as mild. Ear­lier in the week, he in­di­cated Wood would only miss one start.

It ap­pears the Dodgers can keep to that sched­ule and still uti­lize Ryu be­fore Wood comes back.

“Ob­vi­ously, his out­ing tonight was very en­cour­ag­ing,” Roberts said. “We’ve al­ways con­sid­ered him a starter. We’d like to con­tinue to give him op­por­tu­ni­ties. But I think right now, it’s still con­tin­gent upon Alex’s health.”

Wood is not el­i­gi­ble to re­turn un­til Tues­day. The Dodgers play five games be­fore then. Ryu and Maeda con­tinue to jockey for po­si­tion as the fifth man in the ro­ta­tion. Maeda gave up three runs in Tues­day’s first in­ning and lasted only four in­nings.

Maeda has stum­bled in the first in­ning of­ten this sea­son. Ryu has been be­set by more con­ven­tional f lights of in­con­sis­tency, ap­pear­ing prone to homers ear­lier in the year and tak­ing a 10-run pound­ing by Colorado in May.

On Wed­nes­day, Ryu amped his fast­ball ve­loc­ity up to 93 mph. He tamed right-handed hit­ters with cut­ters. He fooled oth­ers with his changeup. The run he gave up re­sulted from an un­steady route in the out­field by con­verted in­fielder Chris Tay­lor. And be­cause Martinez dom­i­nated the Dodgers lineup, Ryu ex­ited with­out a chance for a vic­tory.

“I knew that I was go­ing to start this game, and I just pre­pared the way that I would have if I had kept my start­ing job,” Ryu said. “Even though the team lost, per­son­ally, it was one of my bet­ter out­ings.”

Martinez rep­re­sented for­mi­da­ble op­po­si­tion. He strikes out more than a bat­ter per in­ning with a fast­ball that av­er­ages 96 mph. Wed­nes­day, he touched 100 mph in the eighth.

“He’s got some of the best stuff in base­ball,” Roberts said.

St. Louis dinged Ryu in the sec­ond. With a run­ner at sec­ond base, Ryu threw three change­ups in a row to rookie Paul DeJong. The third ap­peared to dip be­neath the strike zone, but DeJong swung any­way. In cen­ter field, Tay­lor stepped in when the ball came off the bat. A run-scor­ing dou­ble landed over his head.

“Chris might have not got the best jump, be­cause it was a good pitch, ac­tu­ally,” Roberts said.

Ryu did not crum­ble. He pre­vented the Car­di­nals from record­ing an­other hit un­til out­fielder Stephen Pis­cotty smashed a groundrule dou­ble in the fourth. Ryu re­tired the next bat­ter to keep his team­mates within a run.

The Dodgers scratched to­gether one run in the sixth. Tempted by Martinez’s changeup, Corey Sea­ger main­tained his pa­tience and took a walk. He hus­tled to third on a sin­gle by Yas­mani Gran­dal. Adrian Gon­za­lez lofted a sac­ri­fice fly that brought Sea­ger home.

Martinez gave up a dou­ble to En­rique Her­nan­dez in the sev­enth. Oth­er­wise, he did not al­low any other Dodger to reach base af­ter the sixth.

The dead­lock lasted into the eighth. Then Stripling mis­placed the cut­ter to Fowler. Crouched in right field, Her­nan­dez broke into a sprint when the ball rose off the bat. His jaunt did not last long. Her­nan­dez slowed to a jog af­ter a few steps, then stopped. There was noth­ing to do but watch.

“Out of the hand, I knew where it was go­ing to be,” Stripling said. “I was just hop­ing he would miss it.” Fowler did not. “Ob­vi­ously,” Stripling said, “he was all over it.”

Chris Lee St. Louis Post Dis­patch

ST. LOUIS CLOSER Se­ung Hwan Oh walks off the mound af­ter strik­ing out Chris Tay­lor of the Dodgers to wrap up the Car­di­nals’ 2-1 vic­tory.

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