Bad pitch proves costly
Fowler hits go-ahead solo homer in eighth on a poorly placed cutter by Stripling.
ST. LOUIS 2 DODGERS 1
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.”
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.