Squandered scoring chances take a toll on Dodgers in loss to Diamondbacks
Not long after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he is “not in the business of running into outs,” his 35-year-old outfielder who had stolen all of four bases in the previous four years was caught stealing on Friday night, a pivotal play in an eventual 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Dodger Stadium.
David Peralta led off the bottom of the second with a single to right field and took off for second base on a one-and-two pitch to Miguel Vargas. Peralta was initially ruled safe when it appeared he avoided the tag of second baseman Ketel Marte, but the call was overturned after a lengthy replay review.
Vargas hammered Merrill Kelly’s next pitch off the wall in right-center field for a double, a hit Peralta could have scored on or that would have given the Dodgers runners on second and third with no outs. Instead, there was a man on second with one out. James Outman and Miguel Rojas both struck out to end the inning.
“It always happens,” Peralta said of running into an out right before a big hit. “That was my fault. It pisses me off. But that’s how baseball goes.”
The inability to score in the second inning was one of several opportunities the Dodgers failed to cash in on during a chilly, 56-degree evening in which they drew nine walks but struck out nine times and went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
J.D. Martinez struck out with two on to end the first inning. With one out and a runner aboard in the third, Will Smith smoked a 111-mph line drive at left fielder Corbin Carroll for an out, and Max Muncy drilled a 110-mph line drive right at center fielder Alek Thomas.
Outman grounded out, and Rojas flied out to the warning track in left field with two on to end the fourth. Mookie Betts’ solo homer to left off reliever Drey Jameson gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the seventh.
But Diamondbacks right fielder Jake McCarthy prevented the Dodgers from tacking on by making a leaping catch on the warning track of Muncy’s drive with a runner aboard to end the seventh.
Arizona took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth on Kyle Lewis’ pinch-hit, two-run homer off Dodgers left-hander Alex Vesia. Vargas and Outman walked with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but Rojas scalded a 99-mph line drive right at shortstop Nick Ahmed to end the inning.
“We hit the ball pretty well, we hit a lot of hard line drives right at those guys, so you can’t be too frustrated with that, because it’s gonna happen,” Peralta said. “You just have to turn the page and be ready for tomorrow.”
There was some irony in the fact that Peralta’s caught stealing was a key play for the Dodgers. Before the game, Roberts said the Dodgers wouldn’t join the trend of teams taking advantage of baseball’s new pitch timer, a limit on pickoff attempts in each at-bat and the slightly larger bases to steal more bases.
After major league teams combined to steal just five bases in nine attempts during last year’s opening day, Thursday’s games saw 21 successful steals in 23 attempts.
“I think it boils down to personnel,” Roberts said. “I’m still not in the business of running into outs, regardless of how big the bases are. We just don’t have the burners, the prototypical base stealers, so I’m not gonna run just to run.”
Roberts did not give Peralta the steal sign in the second. The left fielder was running on his own. But the manager did not second-guess Peralta’s aggressiveness.
“I mean, they overturned it,” Roberts said. “If he’s safe, it’s a good play. If he’s out, it’s a bad play. I don’t play that game. He felt he could steal the base, they overturned it and he was called out.”
Peralta said Kelly was slow to the plate during the Vargas at-bat, and he thought he had the right-hander timed well.
“I had a pretty good jump, so I just took my shot,” Peralta said. “It didn’t work out.”
Not much else worked out for the Dodgers on Friday night with the exception of Dustin May’s superb seven-inning, scoreless start and Betts’ homer, but there was at least one encouraging sign in the middle of the lineup.
Cleanup batter Muncy, who struck out five times in Thursday night’s season-opening 8-2 win, roped a 105-mph single to right field in the third inning and hit three other balls extremely hard for outs.
“Someone was worried about Max Muncy [on Thursday], and he barrelled four balls today,” Roberts said. “That’s baseball. You just have to stick with guys, trust guys and know they’ll be just fine.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.