SAN FRANCISCO -- Nothing lasts forever, the Los Angeles Dodgers learned Thursday, and sometimes the road back to reality is harsh and unforgiving.
The Dodgers not only gave up their first runs of the young season, after 31 consecutive scoreless innings, they lost for the first time, and in the process, their new manager found himself in the interrogation room. That's what a 12-6 defeat can do to a club.
It's easy to second guess, but manager Dave Roberts' decision to stick with starter Alex Wood as momentum turned toward the San Francisco Giants in the fifth inning wasn't hard to circle in the scorebook as it was happening.
On one hand, Wood was superb while delivering four scoreless innings, giving up only three hits to that point. But he started to lose his way in the fifth inning as the Giants came through the order for the third time. It's hardly an issue exclusive to Wood, but one he has dealt with in the past.
"It's just baseball," Wood said. "They've got a good lineup. They don't strike out a lot. They put a lot of balls in play. They just got the better of me today."
Wood gave up three runs in the fifth, a rally that started with a leadoff walk to Brandon Crawford, but the Dodgers still held a slim 4-3 lead at the end of the inning, and the left-hander was barely over 70 pitches. Still, momentum had clearly shifted. As it turned out, it had shifted for good.
Surprisingly, Wood was allowed to hit for himself in the top of the sixth. He struck out swinging and then gave up a pair of hits to start the bottom of the sixth. Nothing behind door No. 1, and even less behind door No. 2.
"He had 24 pitches in the fifth inning," Roberts said. "He gave up a couple of doubles and there was still some weak contact. I felt that his velocity was still there. After the fifth inning there was 74 pitches [total], so as far as stamina and where he was at, I didn't see him missing arm side and I didn't see that he was losing velocity."
What he was missing, then, was the unfamiliarity factor he had when each Giants player had only two at-bats against him.
It all raised the question: Why was Wood allowed to stay in Thursday's game with 71 pitches through five innings and momentum clearly slipping, while Scott Kazmir was pulled from his outing Tuesday, when he had 75 pitches and had given up only one hit through six innings?
"I just think that at that point, there were two hard-hit balls, and he was further along in spring training as far as what he did than Kaz at that point and time," Roberts said in his defense. "I felt that as far as workload, he was right there. I think that for us, 100 pitches would have been fine or 105 pitches for Alex today."
In the end, it didn't really matter. The Giants ripped through the Dodgers' bullpen as well, leaving the day as an example at how fast fortunes can change. The Dodgers must have felt invincible after outscoring the Padres 25-0 in San Diego, then nearly gave up half of what they scored there to the Giants in one day.
Wood at least showed things with which to be pleased. The bullpen? Not so much.
Taking away Louis Coleman's 1 1/3 scoreless innings, the rest of the relievers used Thursday gave up seven earned runs and nine hits over 1 2/3 innings. The lone lefty in the bullpen, J.P Howell, was charged with four runs without recording an out.
"I don't think the line score is actually the way these guys threw the baseball," Roberts said, trying to remain positive, but essentially leaving his own hanging breaking ball right over the plate.
If only exit velocity off the bat was the difference between winning and losing.
Wood did contribute four scoreless innings to the Dodgers' 31-inning scoreless streak to open the season, one shy of the record set by the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals. To his credit, he wasn't in the mood to wax poetic about it.
"It's fine and dandy, but we lost today," he said. "That's all that really matters. As far as any record we're going for or whatever, who really cares?"