LOS ANGELES — There have not been many blowouts in the Giants’ recent saga with the Dodgers. In fact, none to the magnitude of their 9-1 loss Wednesday night.
Fourteen of their previous 25 meetings, including their first one of this season on Tuesday, had been decided by two runs or fewer. None of their matchups last season had a margin of more than six runs on either side.
But one botched dribbler and a couple home runs turned what was once a pitcher’s duel into a rout and cemented the Dodgers’ two-game sweep of the Giants in NL West rivals’ first showdown this season.
After relieving Mauricio Llovera, who replaced starter Alex Wood, left-hander Sam Long didn’t cover first base and catcher Joey Bart made a similar error at home plate on a soft-hit ground ball from Gavin Lux, allowing the Dodgers to turn a one-run seventh inning into four and take an insurmountable 7-1 lead. The Dodgers scored the final nine runs of the game, with Mookie Betts and Max Muncy tacking on three more with homers in the sixth and the eighth, after Brandon Crawford gave the Giants a 1-0 lead with a solo shot to lead off the second.
The Giants have three games in a row for the first time this season, as well as five of their past six, falling to 14-10. During their 107-win campaign last season, when it took all 162 games to outlast the Dodgers for the NL West, they experienced three such losing streaks and dropped five of six only once.
“We’re just treading water until we get some of these guys back and healthy and get our full squad back,” Wood said.
San Francisco had its first of five players — Mike Yastrzemski, who went 1-for-3 with a bunt single in his first at-bat — come off the COVID list Wednesday, with four other key contributors sidelined with other ailments.
“It’ll be nice to have some of those guys back, for sure,” Wood said. “Two tough ones here in LA against a good team. It’s tough to come in here shorthanded and play a team like that.”
Wood rebounded nicely from his worst outing this season (5 IP, 5 ER vs. WSH), striking out seven and allowing three runs on four hits over 5⅓ innings. He left trailing 3-1, and the Giants’ bullpen imploded behind him.
With four more runs allowed Wednesday, Giants relievers have surrendered more in the past five games (20) than they did during their first 19 of the season (16). Their ERA has risen from an MLB-best 1.57 to 3.15, which would have ranked 10th entering Wednesday.
“I think it’s fair to call out the absence of Zack (Littell) and Dom (Leone),” manager Gabe Kapler said, noting his two relievers’ stints with COVID-19 have coincided with the bullpen’s struggles. “Those are two core pieces of our bullpen.”
Long entered with one out and one on in the seventh and proceeded to allow four of the five batters he faced to reach base, including a bases-clearing triple from Freddie Freeman that made it 7-1. Betts’ sac fly that scored the second run of the inning would have been the third out, if there had been a man at first base on Lux’s dribbler.
Kapler said Bart, who struck out twice more and is mired in a 3-for-30 slump, was also responsible for the inning-extending play going awry.
“I think (first baseman Wilmer Flores) was prepared to go to the plate,” Kapler said. “Joey has to be on home plate giving a clear, crisp target to Flo there. … I think Joey is pressing just a little bit (at the plate). One of the things I can say about Joey is he is staying very consistent behind the plate and he’s doing a nice job of communicating with our pitchers.”
Wood got Freeman swinging in his previous at-bat — his seventh strikeout and the first out past the fifth inning he has recorded this season. Wood’s final four outs came via strikeout, striking out the side in the fifth inning, though it appeared manager Gabe Kapler was prepared to pull Wood if he had run into trouble, with Long warming in the bullpen. But Wood came back out for the next inning, at 84 pitches, as the Dodgers turned their lineup over for the third time.
Betts, the leadoff man, put the first pitch of the sixth inning over the wall in center field, padding the Dodgers’ lead before they blew it open the next inning.
Crawford, who was hitting a meager .215/.319/.304 through his first 22 games entering Wednesday night, homered in the second inning for the Giants’ only run off starter Tony Gonsolin.
Luis González, who bunted for a base hit in Tuesday’s loss, stole second base and made it to third after ripping a single to lead off the third inning, but the Giants stranded him 90 feet away. Kevin Padlo, who led off the fifth with another single, was their only other runner to reach scoring position after González.
Following Crawford’s home run, the Giants got the leadoff man on base for the next seven innings and didn’t score once. Their batting stats: 6-for-7 with two walks when leading off an inning; 0-for-26 in every other plate appearance.
Crawford’s home run was the only run the Giants scored off either Dodgers starter this series and one of only two total runs over the two games, immediately following a series loss at home in which they surrendered 28 runs and 45 hits to the Nationals.
San Francisco had a half-game lead on the division after its win Saturday, in the second game of that series, but the Giants have since fallen 2.5 games behind the Dodgers.
The Giants took six of the 10 games they played at Dodger Stadium during their race to the NL West crown last year, including a win in their first series in Los Angeles (though, like this year, they were swept in their first meeting last year, too, but at Oracle Park).
As they attempt a repeat, they’ve dropped their first two contests with the Dodgers this season. Seventeen more to go.