SAN FRANCISCO -- Seven days down the rabbit hole was plenty for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who finally are headed home for their first games at Dodger Stadium this season both dazed from a wild road trip yet in possession of a winning record.
They saw the glory of a 25-0 scoring advantage in one series at San Diego, juxtaposed by what could have been four consecutive defeats in the Bay Area had the Giants been able to turn a tailor-made double play in the ninth inning Saturday.
Buried not-so-deep inside that mix was the most bizarre experience of all, when rookie Ross Stripling took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, only to run into a pitch limit and get removed from the game. The Dodgers’ bullpen squandered the no-hitter, the lead and the game in a matter of two more innings.
In the other two defeats at San Francisco, the Dodgers blew leads of 4-0 and 5-0, with Sunday’s wasted five-run advantage ending in a 9-6 defeat.
The triumphant sweep at San Diego is such a distant memory at this point that it requires double-checking just to verify that the Dodgers actually do have a 4-3 record. Ahead is a perfectly placed off-day Monday, followed by the home opener Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It was almost as if new manager Dave Roberts got a look at every possible scenario in his first week at the helm of the club, including an ejection, although he wasn’t about to stop checking to see if anything was gaining on him.
“I don’t want to say that because come Tuesday there is going to be something that we’ve all never seen,” Roberts said, swatting away a question about whether or not he has seen everything now. “You know what, there have been a lot of different things that have gone on, but it’s great.”
Sunday’s new wrinkle was a flame-out by a starter, when Scott Kazmir not only failed to protect a big early lead but he didn’t even make it past the fourth inning.
The Giants tagged Kazmir with three home runs, as he became the first Dodgers pitcher to give up that many in a game to the Giants since Kazuhisa Ishii in 2004. No Dodgers pitcher had allowed that at San Francisco since Ismael Valdez at Candlestick Park in 1997.
“They didn’t miss,” Kazmir said. “When you look back at the three home runs, two were a changeup, one was a cutter and they were up. The cutter, [I] just didn’t have a feel for it today. There were a lot of pitches right down the middle, no spin, and they hit them all.”
Kazmir’s outing -- six runs on eight hits over four innings -- was only slightly worse than Alex Wood's start Thursday when he gave up five runs on eight hits over five innings. But at least Wood opened with four scoreless innings before the wheels started to come off.
Particularly troubling was Sunday’s first-inning walk from Kazmir to Hunter Pence, while sitting on that five-run cushion. Not only did the walk force a runner into scoring position, the run came home one batter later on a base hit from Brandon Belt. Pence then scored on a Matt Duffy single.
“That was huge,” Kazmir said. “You want to go out there and attack hitters and get these guys back in the dugout as soon as possible. For me to give up a two-spot (in the first inning), with a walk in between that, that’s just something you don’t do.”
Kazmir might perfectly represent the changing tides that marked the first trip. He delivered six innings of one-hit baseball at San Diego on Tuesday before his clunker Sunday.
“It’s been a roller coaster this past week,” Kazmir said. “But I think I speak for all of us in this clubhouse when I say that we are a confident group and we know what we are capable of doing. We just have to get it done.”
Roberts, who could find the positive in an ant invasion at a picnic, said he still felt “great” despite losing three-of-four to the Giants.
Yes, Kelby Tomlinson's failure to start a late double play Saturday opened the door for a Dodgers victory, avoiding the sweep, but Roberts could also see the big lead Thursday, the brilliant outing from Ross Stripling on Friday and a five-run first-inning Sunday. All of it could have turned this series into a Dodgers four-game sweep, under different circumstances.
Is it good to get so many scenarios out of the way, especially the bad ones?
“I definitely don’t think of it as getting it out of the way. You kind of expect it,” Roberts said. “When there are games that are kind of turn-key, those are nice, but I think you have to go in expecting a lot of different situations.”
There is plenty to parse out when it comes to the past week. Roberts promises to learn from it, not obsess in it.
“I think that when things work out, or they don’t, I like to poke holes in decisions I have made or didn’t make; I think that is good for growth,” he said. “But I definitely don’t try to second-guess myself. In the moment, there are reasons why I do what I do. Whether they work out or not, I think the process is followed through, we have to live with it. I know I have to live with it.”
What the Dodgers seem to need at this point is the embrace from 50,000 home fans on Tuesday afternoon.
“One week in, we’re 4-3, we’re in a good place and the clubhouse, the guys have a good frame of mind,” Roberts said. “Actually, I feel pretty good.”