The schedule provided a nice runway for the Dodgers this weekend, a chance for a road-weary and pitching-thin team to cruise into the All-Star break with three home games against the worst team in baseball, except the Arizona Diamondbacks refused to play their usual role of pushovers Friday night.
Errors by a pair of usually sure-handed corner infielders paved the way for two unearned runs, and the Dodgers walked two batters with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a 5-2 loss to the Diamondbacks before 49,215 in Chavez Ravine.
“When you’re not scoring runs consistently, things certainly get more magnified,” manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers mustered only five hits and went zero for eight with runners in scoring position to suffer their fourth loss in five games.
“It’s hard to pitch perfect, and we have to be good on defense. When you’re not scoring runs, you have to make sure those things are air-tight, and tonight they weren’t.”
The Dodgers (54-35) won their first seven games against the Diamondbacks (26-64) this season, outscoring them 40-17, and Friday night’s game began on a promising note.
David Price, starting the ninth planned bullpen game of the season, threw a season-high three innings and 51 pitches, blanking Arizona on four hits, striking out three and walking one, before yielding to left-hander Darien Nunez to start the fourth.
Price escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the first by striking out Asdrubal Cabrera with a 95-mph fastball. He wiggled out of a two-on, one-out jam in the third by striking out David Peralta with an 89-mph changeup and getting Cabrera to ground out to second.
“Not bad,” Price said of his outing. “Could have ended a couple of at-bats a little bit earlier, but being able to get outs with runners in scoring position and guys on base is good.”
Price, 35, has a 154-80 career record and a 3.31 ERA. He spent the first 11 years of his career as a starter before opting out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns.
The left-hander accepted a bullpen role to start the season, but he will remain in the rotation to start the second half. The fact that he hit 96 mph twice in his third inning left him encouraged about his return to a starting role.
“I felt good through my entire outing,” Price said. “I feel like the games I’ve started or opened this year, my velo has been a little higher. That’s being able to get into the weight room beforehand, getting stretched by [strength and conditioning coach] Travis Smith and then going straight out to throw. That’s what I’ve always done, and my body feels really good whenever I start.”
The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the third when AJ Pollock led off with a homer to center field, his 10th of the season.
But the Diamondbacks went ahead 2-1 in the fifth when third baseman Justin Turner failed to glove Nick Ahmed’s leadoff chopper for an error and Eduardo Escobar poked a 95-mph up-and-away fastball from Nunez for a two-run homer to right, the ball traveling 335 feet and landing in the first row near the foul pole.
“It was an in-between play,” Roberts said of the Turner error. “He sold out and tried to get the short hop and didn’t come up with it.”
Arizona pushed the lead to 3-1 in the seventh, Josh Rojas starting the rally with a one-out walk off Joe Kelly. Escobar hit a soft liner to the right of Max Muncy that Dodgers the first baseman failed to glove with a backhand stab, his first error in 65 games — 51 of them starts — at the position this season.
“No,” Roberts said, when asked if Muncy told him he took his eye off the ball. “He just said he was a little befuddled how he didn’t come up with it. He thought he stayed down. He’s a Gold Glove first baseman, and he just didn’t make the play.”
Christian Walker was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Rojas scored on Peralta’s infield single, a chopper behind the second-base bag.
The Dodgers pulled to within 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Pollock doubled to left-center, took third on pinch-hitter Zach McKinstry’s grounder to second and scored on Mookie Betts’ grounder to third.
But the Diamondbacks extended the lead to 5-2 in the ninth when Dodgers reliever Edwin Uceta gave up a single and three walks — the last to Daulton Varsho with the bases loaded — and Jake Reed walked Josh Reddick to force in another run.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.