Monday’s 3-2 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field was the sixth consecutive one-run game (before Tuesday’s 7-4 win over the D-backs) the Dodgers played in going back to June 7’s 4-3 win over the Rockies at home. The Dodgers have lost five of seven during this recent string of close games against N.L. West rivals Colorado, San Francisco and Arizona.
The Dodgers are 7-13 in one-run games this season. The Giants, who are six games ahead of the Dodgers after their series win over the weekend, are 16-7 in one-run games this year. Not only have the Dodgers found themselves in numerous one-run games, but they haven’t been able to find much success in them due primarily to under-performing offense.
Out of the 20 one-run games the Dodgers have been involved in, six of those were against the Giants. They lost four of those six one-run games vs. the Giants including the two recent losses in San Francisco. The Dodgers have to figure out a way to turn the outcome in their favor in these close inter-division series. 60 percent of the games between L.A. and S.F. have been one-run affairs, and there are still ten head-to-head games remaining.
Let’s take a closer look at those pivotal one-run losses to the Giants.
The 10-inning 3-2 loss in San Francisco on April 8 was a game where the Dodgers outhit the Giants 9-2, but the bullpen blew the save (Chris Hatcher) and served up the walk-off home run to Brandon Crawford in the 10th (Joe Blanton). Ross Stripling flirted with history and took his Major League debut start into the eighth inning without allowing a hit. Dave Robert’s decision to pull Stripling from the game, although the right decision, was criticized. They went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
Scott Kazmir was out-pitched by Johnny Cueto in the 4-3 loss to the Giants at home on April 16. Kazmir gave up four runs on seven hits and only lasted four innings. The Dodgers only mustered three hits off Cueto’s shimmy and shake delivery. The Dodgers went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base.
With the month of May in between, the Dodgers fell to the Giants in two additional one-run games in June at AT&T Park. The 5-4 and 2-1 losses in San Francisco was another frustrating walk-off affair after a rare blown save by closer Kenley Jansen and a disappointing offensive showing against Jake Peavy and company.
On June 12, the Dodgers left five men on base and were 0-for-2 with RISP. Like the Stripling start against the Giants in April, rookie Julio Urías pitched well until his mistake to Brandon Belt in the sixth. Joc Pederson‘s seventh inning home run was the lone Dodger run.
The day prior on June 11, the Dodgers lost another ten-inning battle akin to the April 8 loss. The Dodgers lost 5-4, Kenley blew the save and the team left 10 men on base. They went 1-for-9 with RISP on 11 hits. Kazmir allowed three runs on three hits in five innings of work, and Adrian Gonzalez went yard late again with a home run in the top of the tenth. Justin Turner gave the Dodgers the win with late inning heroics in the series opener, but Jansen allowed the game-tying hit by Joe Panik followed by the walk-off Buster Posey single.
It was only the third walk-off against Jansen in his career, and I’m inclined to think that the Dodgers’ elite closer isn’t broken. Although he only blew two saves the entire season in 2015. Dodgers-Giants games are usually close contests with the occasional 12-6 or 17-0 blowout, but both the bullpen and the offense has been tested this year when they are within a run of their opponent.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has 11 blown saves collectively, tied with the Giants and Marlins for second-most in the N.L. The relievers have 32 holds compared to the Giants’ 47, most in the league. Their 3.04 ERA bullpen ERA is just ahead of the Mets and third-best in baseball. Their struggles come in high leverage situations (11.68 ERA with 10 home runs allowed). With men on base, the Dodgers’ bullpen ERA is 7.22. With the inconsistent and skimpy offense, the bullpen has been unreliable in preserving leads and preventing the opposition from scoring when the stakes are high.
It wasn’t long ago when the Dodgers excelled in one-run games. In 2013, the year of the epic 42-8 run, the Dodgers were 25-21 in one-run games. Arizona, who ended up in second place, went 34-21 in one-run games and San Francisco was 28-28.
The #Dodgers have 12 consecutive wins in one-run games, a franchise record.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 15, 2013
In 2014, the Dodgers were 25-20 in one-run games, but last season they began to have trouble in close games going 23-26 on the year. The Giants, who finished eight games behind the Dodgers, lost 28 of 47 one-run games they were involved with.
With a long and twisting 162-game season, there are always games that each team wishes they could get back. Usually these one-run losses incite some fans and provide evidence to present in their case to oust whomever the current manager or general manager is at the time.
The results of one-run games are often random, but good teams find ways to win in these situations. Luck has played a factor in the Dodgers’ case combined with the plethora of injuries, but the poor offense has been the biggest contributing factor to their failures in these close games.
The Dodgers have the lowest BABIP in the Majors (.269), 27th-worst team batting average (.232), 25th in OBP (.307), 28th in slugging (.377) and 24th in wRC+ (88). While some bad luck and shaky bullpen performance in high leverage situations have contributed to their stale season so far, the offense has dragged down the team especially in one-run games. Reinforcements may be coming with Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig or Frankie Montas, but their contributions may be limited to the second-half. Barring a trade or international signing for an offensive upgrade, the Dodgers need to wake up their bats and soon.