The Dodgers got caught up in low-scoring games decided by bullpens, and that is pretty much the only way to lose to the worst-hitting team in baseball. On Saturday, the Dodgers lost a second consecutive walk-off game to the Padres at Petco Park 2-1 and dropped another game in the standings. They lead the San Francisco Giants by just 2½ games now.
How it happened: As usual when these teams play, pitching ruled the day. Zack Greinke and Ian Kennedy were both in sync, and that meant very few hitters looked comfortable. The Dodgers struck out eight times in the first four innings against Kennedy, whom they were facing for the fifth time this season. Greinke was just as good, if not better, an encouraging sign considering he has been pitching with a sore elbow.
Padres catcher Rene Rivera was Greinke’s only problem. He hit a pair of leadoff doubles. The first time, he scored. The second time, in the eighth, Cameron Maybin pinch ran and Drew Butera picked him off second base. The throw bounced, but it somehow scooted past Maybin, and Hanley Ramirez was able to apply a quick tag for a huge out.
The Padres got Greinke out of the game and almost beat the Dodgers’ most consistent middle reliever, J.P. Howell, but Howell somehow snared a wicked line drive from Yasmani Grandal and doubled Abraham Almonte off second base to diffuse the rally.
Hits: The No. 1 upside from Saturday’s game is that it appears the Dodgers’ rotation is far healthier than it appeared just days ago. Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to come off the disabled list to pitch Sunday, but even more encouraging was Greinke’s efficient work Saturday. He got in a spot of trouble in the third when Rivera ripped a double into the left-field corner and scored, but otherwise Greinke appeared to be in command of all his pitches. The fact he could breeze through eight innings with eight strikeouts and just four hits was a huge boost to the Dodgers’ pennant hopes.
Misses: It looked like Yasiel Puig's frustrations -- and the Dodgers’ problems scoring at Petco Park -- had ended in the sixth inning. After Matt Kemp walked, Puig took a big cut and hit a massive, soaring drive to center field. It probably would have left all but a few parks in baseball, and this isn’t one of those. Center fielder Almonte caught it on the warning track with his back pressed against the wall. That means Puig’s slump lived on. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly slid him to the fifth spot in the lineup for the first time all season. The good news was his 0-for-22 skid ended with a single up the middle in the eighth inning, but Puig struck out three times on the night.
Stat of the game: Mattingly insists he’ll go with Juan Uribe at third base every day when the veteran returns, perhaps as soon as Sunday. That could be, but Mattingly would be taking his hottest hitter out of the lineup on many days. Justin Turner is batting .374 since May 23, best in the majors for players with a minimum of 175 plate appearances.
Up next: Ryu (13-6, 3.28 ERA) returns from the disabled list, where he spent about two and a half weeks resting his strained buttock muscles, to pitch Sunday's 1:10 game. The Dodgers will be facing former teammate Eric Stults (6-14, 4.63), who has been tough on them in the past.