Dodgers’ bats struggle again in NLDS Game 3 loss to Padres

SAN DIEGO — The first postseason ‘Surfliner Series’ between the Dodgers and Padres in Southern California comes at a time when that train is not actually running all the way between Los Angeles and San Diego due to coastal erosion that is threatening the structural integrity of the track.

The Dodgers should understand. They are also in danger of having the ground wash out from under them.

The best offense in baseball this season has eroded in the postseason – a familiar October failing in clutch situations surfacing yet again – and put them on the brink of elimination following a 2-1 loss to the Padres in Game 3 of their National League Division Series on Friday night at a packed Petco Park.

While the Dodgers bullied their opponents during the regular season, winning an MLB-record 95 games by multiple runs (60 by four runs or more), the Padres were an MLB-best 30-17 in one-run games.

They dragged the Dodgers into those deep waters in Game 3 and now lead the best-of-five NLDS two games to one. The Padres will send hometown hero Joe Musgrove to the mound in Game 4 with a chance to send the 111-win Dodgers back home empty-handed. Tyler Anderson is expected to start for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers were the most dangerous team in baseball with runners in scoring position during the regular season, batting .272 with an .824 OPS and 48 home runs in those situations.

That team showed up for three innings in Game 1. Since Gavin Lux’s RBI double in the third inning that night, however, the Dodgers have gone hitless in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position including 0 for 9 in Game 3. Friday’s only run came on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts in the fifth inning.

The Dodgers stranded Betts at second base in the first inning, loaded the bases in the third and got nothing against Padres starter Blake Snell then scored just on Betts’ fly ball after putting runners at second and third with no outs in the sixth.

Saturday’s starting pitching matchup was a throwback to Game 6 of the 2020 World Series and the Dodgers got Snell out of the game after 5⅓ innings just as they did in that game. No game-winning rally followed this time.

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Instead, the Padres’ bullpen continued its mastery of the Dodgers’ lineup, holding them to only an infield single over the final 3-2/3 innings. In the first three games of this series, Padres relievers have combined to pitch 13 scoreless innings and hold the Dodgers’ hitters to a .114 average (5 for 44).

Right-hander Tony Gonsolin also started that 2020 Game 6 and lasted only 1⅔ innings but gave up just one run.

This time, Gonsolin entered the game having thrown a total of four innings in actual games since returning from a forearm injury that sidelined him in August – two on a minor-league rehab start and two in a big-league game during the final week of the regular season.

He struggled with command, looking as rusty as you might expect, and retired just four of the nine batters he faced against the Padres – but gave up just one run.

Andrew Heaney followed him, overcame some more shaky defense from Trea Turner in the third inning but gave up the deciding run when Trent Grisham ambushed a first-pitch fastball for a leadoff home run in the fourth.

More to come on this story.

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