Play­off cov­er­age

Whole Dodgers team guilty of a bad start, not just their ace

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - BILL PLASCHKE

An in-depth look at Game 1 be­tween the Dodgers and the Brew­ers.

MIL­WAU­KEE — Wel­come to the land of cheese, where, for the long­est time Fri­day night, the Dodgers stunk like a slab of Lim­burger.

Greet­ings from Miller Park, where, for the first seven in­nings, the Dodgers were as flat as stale Hamm’s.

Hello from Game 1 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Series in old Mil­wau­kee, which the Dodgers be­gan by aim­lessly wan­der­ing around like broke tourists on a late night at Ok­to­ber­fest.

By the time they found them­selves, it was too late. When they fi­nally mounted what would have been one of the great­est ral­lies in their post­sea­son his­tory, the climb was too much.

Given their night of mis­for­tune, it fig­ured that Justin Turner would strike out with the ty­ing run on third base to end the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers’ 6-5 vic­tory.

“We were right in it,” Chris Tay­lor said in a Dodgers club­house draped in si­lence. “But our mis­takes cost us in the end.”

Those mis­takes helped give the Brew­ers a 6-1 lead af­ter seven in­nings. When the Dodgers came back, it was a come­back too far.

They scored three runs in the eighth on sin­gles by Manny Machado and Matt Kemp, but the in­ning ended with Yasiel Puig strik­ing out with run­ners on the cor­ners. Then they scored again in the ninth on Tay­lor’s triple be­fore Turner’s strike­out against Corey Knebel, the sev­enth Brew­ers pitcher, fin­ished it.

“The goal is to win a base­ball game, but I think that it shows the [will to] com­pete in our guys,” Roberts said.

But it’s hard to com­pete while flat on your back, which is where

the Dodgers could be found af­ter play­ing the first seven in­nings al­most like it was the first spring train­ing game.

As thou­sands of Brew­ers fans waved yel­low flags, the Dodgers flapped their bats, flailed their gloves. As thou­sands did a slow-mo­tion wave, the Dodgers played a slow-mo­tion game.

With their hosts chant­ing, “Beat L.A.,” the Dodgers did just that, even­tu­ally los­ing with four er­rors, two passed balls and 13 strike­outs.

For the Brew­ers, it was Ham­burger Night, as their 12th con­sec­u­tive win en­sured a free burger for ev­ery­one next week as promised through an an­cient pro­mo­tion from the city’s ven­er­a­ble Ge­orge Webb restaurants.

For the Dodgers, it was Throw­back Night, as they went back, back, back to the days of Clay­ton Ker­shaw’s post­sea­son demons and the early-sea­son slop­pi­ness that led to a 16-26 start.

“I don’t think we came out flat. We were ready to go. It’s just base­ball,” Tay­lor said. “I don’t think it was any­thing to do with the mo­ment or any­thing like that. You’re go­ing to have those in­nings some­times.”

They can quickly re­gain their mojo Satur­day af­ter­noon in Game 2 with hot Hyun-Jin Ryu pitch­ing, but they can’t wait any longer, be­cause this group is not used to play­ing from be­hind. The last time the Dodgers lost the first game of a seven-game series, it was in the

‘I don’t think we came out flat. We were ready to go. It’s just base­ball. I don’t think it was any­thing to do with the mo­ment or any­thing like that. You’re go­ing to have those in­nings.’

— Chris Tay­lor

2016 NLCS to the Chicago Cubs, a series they lost in six games.

The good news for Dodgers fans is that they wore down sev­eral Brew­ers re­liev­ers and showed they even­tu­ally can strike deep into the Brew­ers’ strength. The bad news is, they’re still trail­ing in the series be­cause they just couldn’t get started.

There was an early mess on the mound, where Ker­shaw blew up by al­low­ing five runs, four earned, in three in­nings. There was early muck be­hind the plate, where Yas­mani Gran­dal im­ploded with two passed balls and two er­rors, one be­ing a catcher’s in­ter­fer­ence that nul­li­fied a tremen­dous div­ing catch by first base­man Dave Freese on a liner by Je­sus Aguilar, keep­ing alive a rally. There was also an early eye­sore in left field, where Tay­lor botched a sin­gle, which led to a run.

“Yeah, it was a tough one; ob­vi­ously you don’t want to get off to that start,” Ker­shaw said. “But it hap­pened, and you try to win to­mor­row.”

That start was par­tic­u­larly night­mar­ish when, given a 1-0 lead on a home run by Machado, Ker­shaw al­lowed a home run by — and this is as hard to type as it was to watch — a re­lief pitcher.

His name is Bran­don Woodruff, and he al­ready had home­red once this year, but still … a re­lief pitcher?

“I knew he could swing the bat a lit­tle bit, for sure,” Ker­shaw said of Woodruff ’s lead­off homer in the third. “I didn’t know he could do that.”

It was an­other dis­ap­point­ing post­sea­son start for the Dodgers’ con­found­ing ace, con­tin­u­ing a string of Oc­to­ber stun­ners from one of the great­est six­month pitch­ers in base­ball his­tory. He seemed to break the spell by al­low­ing the At­lanta Braves just two hits in eight shutout in­nings in a Game 2 vic­tory in the Na­tional League Divi­sion Series last week. But here he was again, fol­low­ing the Woodruff homer by al­low­ing a to­tal of six hits in those three in­nings with just two strike­outs.

Said man­ager Dave Roberts: “I thought the stuff was good, but he just made mis­takes in the strike zone and de­fen­sively, again, we didn’t do him any fa­vors.”

Said Ker­shaw: “Didn’t feel out of con­trol. Just gave up some hits . ... I’ve got to do a bet­ter job keep­ing the score close.”

We’ve heard those quotes be­fore. Just when it seems they’ve fi­nally been qui­eted, we hear them again.

The strug­gling part of the Dodgers’ even­ing ended with the ap­pear­ance of Julio Urias, surely the strangest post­sea­son ros­ter ad­di­tion of any team in re­cent his­tory. In re­plac­ing Scott Alexan­der in the bullpen for the NLCS, Urias was put in the po­si­tion of fac­ing bigleague hit­ters for just the fourth time since un­der­go­ing shoul­der surgery more than a year ago.

Per­haps not co­in­ci­den­tally, Urias al­lowed a homer to the first hit­ter he faced, with Aguilar’s sev­en­thin­ning blast giv­ing the Brew­ers a 6-1 ad­van­tage they would need. It turns out, in fact, that Aguilar’s hit proved to be the pre­cise dif­fer­ence.

Yeah, not even the Dodgers front of­fice could get this one right.

Pho­to­graphs by Robert Gauthier Los An­ge­les Times

BREW­ERS CATCHER Erik Kratz cel­e­brates as Justin Turner strikes out to end the game with the ty­ing run on third base. Turner was 0 for 5 with four strike­outs.

Robert Gauthier Los An­ge­les Times

CODY BELLINGER slams his hel­met af­ter fly­ing out to end the sev­enth in­ning. The Dodgers scored three in the eighth and one in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough.

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