Dodgers’ extra-inning frustrations continue in Arizona

PHOENIX — Back on April 16 at Petco Park, the Dodgers scored five times in the 12th inning to beat the San Diego Padres.

If they had known then that it might be their only extra-inning win of the season, maybe they would have savored it a little more.

The Dodgers spotted the Arizona Diamondbacks a three-run headstart, ran them down in eight innings but lost in the 10th, 6-5, on Friday night.

The Dodgers have ventured into the dark alley of extra innings 12 times this season and came out at the other end with a victory just that one time back in the innocent days of April.

This loss kept them in lockstep with the rest of the NL West’s big three. The Giants and Padres also lost, maintaining status quo in the division – the Dodgers three games back, the Padres 5½.

Max Scherzer can’t get here soon enough – literally, they could use a starter Saturday.

The trade that will bring Scherzer to the Dodgers eventually – he is scheduled to join the team in Arizona on Saturday and make his Dodgers debut most likely on Wednesday – cost the Dodgers their Saturday starter, Josiah Gray.

Some bullpen games are planned. Others are thrust upon you.

Starter Tony Gonsolin faced just 11 batters on Friday and walked five of them, putting the Dodgers in an early hole and setting off a conga line of relievers.

Scherzer’s arrival and Clayton Kershaw’s imminent return from the injured list have made Gonsolin’s days in the starting rotation numbered. It’s a spot he has never really had much of a grip on.

Gonsolin spent the first two months of the season nursing a shoulder injury. In 10 games (nine starts), he has only occasionally looked over it.

Gonsolin completed five innings just twice in those 10 games. His fastball velocity has been consistently low – he averaged 93.3 mph on Friday, down from 95.1 mph last season. And his command has been erratic. Friday was the fifth time he walked three or more batters in a game. In total, he has walked 26 batters in 35-2/3 innings this season.

The only damage the Diamondbacks could manage before Manager Dave Roberts got Gonsolin out of the game was a two-run double by Josh Van Meter. They added a single run in the fourth against Phil Bickford and two more against Brusdar Graterol and Alex Vesia in the sixth.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers had just three baserunners in the first five innings against Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen – a walk, an error and a single. From the sixth through the 10th, though, they put 13 runners on base, chipping away with two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings. Chris Taylor drove in three of the four runs – one on a home run, two on a triple.

A pinch-hit RBI single by Albert Pujols in the eighth tied the score – and Kenley Jansen nearly untied it in the bottom of the eighth. Jansen loaded the bases before striking out Christian Walker and Carson Kelly.

But the Diamondbacks pushed across the winning run in the 10th against Jimmy Nelson, a double by Asdrubal Cabrera driving in the extra runner from second.

More to come on this story.

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Padres getting All-Star 2B Frazier from Pirates

An already impressive Padres infield is about to get even better with the addition of All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier.

Pittsburgh has agreed to trade Frazier San Diego for three minor leaguers, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced. The trade is pending physicals. Pittsburgh is sending approximately $1.4 million to the Padres in the deal.

Frazier was the National League starter in the All-Star Game this month. He leads the majors with 125 hits and is batting .324. He’ll join a potent Padres infield that includes Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer.

Pittsburgh is receiving infielder Tucupita Marcano, outfielder Jack Suwinski and right-hander Michell Miliano in the swap.

The Padres are 58-44 and third in the NL West, and hold a cushion for the second wild-card spot. The Pirates have the second-worst record in the NL.

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Dodgers lose to Giants as Kenley Jansen lets another 9th-inning lead disappear

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws to the plate during Thursday’s game against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. Buehler held the Giants to one run in 7-1/3 innings, striking out nine, but the Dodgers blew another ninth-inning lead in a 5-3 loss. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Giants LaMonte Wade, #31, steals third base as Dodgers Justin Turner, #10, gets the throw late during first inning action against the SF Giants at Dodger Stadium Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers Walker Buehler, #21, gets checked for foreign substances by umpire Jansen Visconti after the first inning against the SF Giants at Dodger Stadium Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Giants starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani throws to the plate against the Dodgers during Thursday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers Justin Turner, #10, connected on this pitch for a ground single to drive in Chris Taylor during first inning action against the SF Giants at Dodger Stadium Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers Chris Taylor, #3, scores on a ground ball by Justin Turner during first inning action against the SF Giants at Dodger Stadium Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers shortstop Chris Taylor forces out the Giants’ Alex Dickerson at second on a throw from Max Muncy, not but the throw to first was late during second inning action against the SF Giants at Dodger Stadium Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ AJ Pollock is out as first as the Giants’ LaMonte Wade catches the ball during the second inning at Dodger Stadium Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger went deep to catch this ball hit by the Giants’ Wilmer Flores during the first inning on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws to the plate during the first inning against the Giants on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ AJ Pollock is safe at first on a grounder as the Giants’ LaMonte Wade can’t make the play during the fourth inning on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen shows his frustration after he thought he struck out the Giants’ Darin Ruf only for it to be called a bases-loaded walk during the ninth inning of Thursday night’s game at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers blew a ninth-inning lead and lost for the second night in a row. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, argues with first base umpire Ed Hickox after the Giants’ Darin Ruf was issued a bases-loaded walk during the ninth inning of Thursday night’s game at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers blew a ninth-inning lead and lost for the second night in a row. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, argues with first base umpire Ed Hickox after the Giants’ Darin Ruf was issued a bases-loaded walk during the ninth inning of Thursday night’s game at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers blew a ninth-inning lead and lost for the second night in a row. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Giants celebrate after scoring a pair of runs to cap their four-run ninth-inning rally against the Dodgers on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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LOS ANGELES — A casual conversation with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts during batting practice Thursday afternoon ended with this pronouncement.

“Kenley’s getting the save tonight,” Roberts said, the ever-optimistic manager striding away confident in his pronouncement.

Roberts had no idea how wrong he would be.

Hours later, Roberts entrusted Kenley Jansen with another ninth-inning lead, his third in the past five days. By the time Jansen strode off the mound, the lead was gone again, Roberts had been ejected for the second consecutive game and the Dodgers were about to lose, 5-3, to the San Francisco Giants.

According to Elias Sports, this is the first time in franchise history the Dodgers have lost three consecutive games in which they led entering the ninth inning (in a single season).

“It’s a big series. It’s Dodgers-Giants,” Dodgers starter Walker Buehler said after taking a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning. “They’re in first place. Obviously, it’s something we’re accustomed to being in that position. We’ve just got to keep going. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of baseball left to play.

“It is what it is. But these stink to lose. We want to win. We want to play well. I think we’ve played well both nights. It just hasn’t gone our way.”

More than not going their way, the Dodgers followed their biggest win of the season with back-to-back gut-punch losses to a team they – in their heart of hearts and private moments – don’t believe is their equal.

But the Giants came to town one game ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West and they leave having stretched that lead to three games thanks to ninth-inning rallies Wednesday (three runs) and Thursday (four runs). The two ancient rivals will catch their breath over the weekend then meet again for three more games starting Tuesday in San Francisco.

“First of all, Kenley’s been great for us all year. He’s been our closer and he’s been dominant,” said catcher Will Smith, whose two-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Dodgers their lead. “Tonight … he gets a ground ball with two outs, we didn’t make the play. Strikes a guy out, we didn’t get the call. They tie it up.

“It’s more the chips didn’t fall his way than anything he’s doing wrong. He’s been great all year.”

There were chips scattered all over the infield by the end of the ninth inning Thursday.

Buehler passed the lead to Blake Treinen in the eighth and Treinen retired both batters he faced easily, throwing just seven pitches – two fewer than he needed to retire the side in the eighth inning Wednesday.

When Jansen was shown on the video boards as he warmed up before the ninth inning, it set off a nervous rumble through the crowd, notes of discontent unmistakable Then he made their worst fears come true.

After striking out Yastrzemski to start the inning, Jansen gave up a single to Wilmer Flores – distinct improvement over the two-run home run Jansen served up to Flores in the ninth inning Wednesday. That brought the tying run to the plate.

Jansen struck out Alex Dickerson but Donovan Solano doubled over Cody Bellinger’s head in center field, putting the tying runs in scoring position. With the crowd on its feet – no doubt, many prepared to boo Jansen for a second consecutive night – Jansen walked pinch-hitter Jason Vosler to load the bases (after getting ahead 1-and-2 in the at-bat).

Thairo Estrada bounced a slow ground ball to shortstop Chris Taylor, who threw to Sheldon Neuse (in the game as a defensive replacement that inning) at second for the forceout that briefly ended the game.

Only briefly. A replay review overturned the original call, a run scored and the drama continued.

“Estrada’s a really good runner,” Roberts said, defending Taylor’s decision to go for the force at second on Vosler rather than make the play to first. “It’s a jailbreak and we had the force play. Sheldon’s a heckuva ballplayer, a heckuva defensive player. But I just think right there in that situation if we stretch, we get the guy and there’s no replay. But that’s part of baseball.”

The next batter, Darin Ruf, worked the count full against Jansen then checked his swing on the seventh pitch of the at-bat – a cutter up and away.

At least that’s what one person – and probably only one – thought. First base umpire Ed Hickox signaled no swing, allowing Ruf to walk and force in the tying run.

Roberts erupted from the Dodgers dugout, firing his hat into the ground and quickly getting ejected.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he went and the game should have been over,” Roberts said. “Eddie’s a very good umpire, been around a long time. But in that spot, two contending teams, you just can’t miss that call. The game should have been over and there’s no other way to look at it.”

Instead, Jansen’s next pitch decided it. LaMonte Wade Jr. lined a soft cutter into right field. It fell in front of Billy McKinney, freshly arrived from the New York Mets and no substitute defensively for Mookie Betts. Two runs scored on the single, the fifth consecutive batter to reach safely with two outs against Jansen.

“There’s a lot of people that are really pissed off and I’m leading the way,” Roberts said. “We should have won that game. It’s a game we really wanted, we had and we didn’t.

“The game should have been over, man. I don’t think the blame should be all on Kenley at all.”

Nonetheless, in three appearances since the All-Star break Jansen has faced 19 batters and allowed 13 of them to reach base on nine hits (including three doubles and a home run) and four walks – all while blowing three save situations.

“I thought that play at second base, if we stretch, he’s out and the game’s over,” Roberts said. “The checked swing, the game’s over and we’re not having this conversation. I’m not reconsidering his role.”

Will Smith unloads on one for the lead! #Dodgers pic.twitter.com/ZoMa4gwxzQ

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) July 23, 2021

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Alexander: Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen has a rough night and hears about it

It is undoubtedly small consolation – or maybe no consolation at all – to frustrated Dodger fans, both the ones booing in the ballpark and the ones yelling at their TVs, phones or tablets on Wednesday night while watching him squander a lead to the Giants with a share of first place on the line.

It might drive you crazy that he’s not perfect, as closers are expected to be (and aren’t). It’s likely tough to take that any momentum gained from Tuesday night’s dramatic comeback victory was squandered in the time it took Wilmer Flores to redirect Jansen’s high cutter 406 feet into the left field pavilion, wiping out a 2-1 Dodger lead.

But Jansen doesn’t hide. He displays rare accountability in an era when locker rooms are closed and it’s easier than ever for an athlete to avoid questions about why he failed. He deserves credit for that, at least.

A while after the Giants had closed out their 4-2 victory on Wednesday night and regained a two-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West, Jansen followed starting pitcher Julio Urias into the Zoom session to answer questions about what went wrong. Most relievers, most players period, wouldn’t have come near the camera and microphone under similar circumstances.

“Obviously, it’s not a good one today,” he said. “You know, you just got to shake it off, let it go and get back on that horse tomorrow. That’s pretty much it. … Can’t overthink it. Can’t let it become a mind game. You just got to move on from it. And tomorrow’s a new day. Brand new day.

“… I didn’t get my job done today. I’m going to focus on getting back tomorrow. Like I say, I worked my butt off. And at the end of the day, I’m just going to come out here and compete and help the Dodgers win ballgames, that’s all. So today wasn’t a great day and we’ll move on from that.”

That last part was in response to a question about the boos, which were loud after the home run and far louder when he was removed after giving up another hit and two walks.

Jansen wouldn’t directly discuss the crowd reaction, which makes sense. That’s a no-win situation. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did, when asked if the home fans’ reaction to Jansen bothered him.

“It does,” he said. “It does. The fans certainly have a right to voice their frustrations, and absolutely I get that. But I do believe that this guy is born and raised as a Dodger. He cares about the Dodgers, the fan base, and he’s shown that on the field, off the field. And no one hurts more than he does, to be quite honest.

“He’s worked really hard to get back and should have been an All-Star this year. And he’s had a fantastic season. So there was a hiccup the other night (Sunday in Denver, when a ninth-inning lead got away). And to have one at home – he was looking forward to pitching at home. And so for it to not go well, yeah, I’m disappointed to hear that (reaction), certainly. He’s not going to say it, but I am.”

For the record, going into the evening Jansen had converted 21 of 24 save opportunities and had a 1.45 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and a .140 opponents’ batting average.

And yet he has walked a thin ledge ever since the 2017 World Series against Houston, when untimely home runs by Marwin Gonzalez in Game 2 (not trash can-aided, as far as we can tell) and Alex Bregman in Game 4 (you be the judge) represented a dividing line. Before that he’d never given up more than six home runs in a season. Afterward, he gave up 13 in 2018 (plus two in his four innings in the World Series) and nine in 2019 and reached a point the last two seasons when he was no longer automatically trusted in key situations.

For the most part, he has regained his manager’s trust. But games like this bring back old, bad memories to the fan base.

On Wednesday night, Victor González inherited Jansen’s mess, got the second out but walked Curt Casali on a 3-and-1 pitch above the knees that resembled a strike to everyone watching except home plate umpire Andy Fletcher and, presumably, those in gray uniforms. That walk forced in the Giants’ fourth run of the night, left González with a stunned look on his face and left Roberts so mad he got ejected after the top of the ninth.

That blown lead wiped out any residue of the euphoria from the previous night, when Will Smith’s pinch-hit, three-run walk-off homer in the ninth completed a comeback from a 6-1 deficit and gave the Dodgers an 8-6 victory and, according to common wisdom, the momentum needed to catch the Giants.

They won’t catch them this week. The best the defending World Series champs can do is win Thursday night to split the four-game series and again pull within a game, for the third time in a week. They’ll get three more cracks at the Giants next week in San Francisco. And Roberts made it clear to SCNG colleague Bill Plunkett that he will not re-think Jansen’s role in the Dodgers’ bullpen … though that can always change.

The trade deadline is now eight days away. The Dodgers’ clear and pressing need is for at least one additional starting pitcher.

But the Cubs’ Craig Kimbrel is available.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

“Obviously it’s not a good one today. You’ve just got to shake it off. Let it go and get back on that horse tomorrow. That’s pretty much it.” @kenleyjansen74 on his performance tonight. pic.twitter.com/zAeeVspjFj

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) July 22, 2021

Wilmer for the lead! 😱 pic.twitter.com/9pr6IqMHIw

— MLB (@MLB) July 22, 2021

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Dodgers rally past Giants on Will Smith’s walk-off homer

LOS ANGELES — In this case, the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” came back to win on a walk-off home run.

Already playing without Mookie Betts (for the past three games) and Corey Seager (for the past two months) and featuring a patchwork pitching staff that had them sending out a pair of rookies to cover the first six innings of a key game in a showdown series for first place in the NL West, the Dodgers were further depleted when Justin Turner (left knee) and Max Muncy (right shoulder) each left Tuesday’s game after being hit by pitches from Giants starter Alex Wood.

’Tis but a flesh wound.

With Chris Taylor doing the heavy lifting and Will Smith striking the final blow, the Dodgers came back from five runs down to beat the Giants, 8-6, on Smith’s pinch-hit, three-run walk-off home run.

“That was huge for us. Obviously, this is a huge series for us,” Taylor said, in no way overstating things. “They took that first one from us and jumped out to an early lead in the second one. So for us to kind of stick with it, come back and find a way to win a game – that’s probably our biggest win of the year so far.”

That’s hard to deny as well.

The Dodgers came into this four-game series against the Giants trying to wrest away first place with one arm tied behind their back.

In Monday’s series opener, they started Tony Gonsolin, whose command and velocity are both off. He didn’t make it through four innings and the Dodgers lost. In the second game Tuesday, the Dodgers got a combined six innings from a pair of rookies, Darien Nunez (in his first big-league start and fourth big-league game) and Josiah Gray (making his MLB debut). But the pair gave up four home runs and the Dodgers trailed, 6-1, in the fifth inning.

“I’ll echo that, what CT said. … Division rival, the team we’re chasing. …. Staring down a 6-1 deficit at one point, lose a couple players in the middle of the game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, also measuring the comeback win as “huge.”

The Dodgers were in danger of dropping three games behind the Giants – a team that has surprised everyone by pitching better than expected and hitting far more home runs than would reasonably have been predicted by anything other than Farhan Zaidi’s laptop.

Alex Dickerson homered off Nunez. Gray had his moments, striking out seven in the first four innings of his big-league career (including four batters in a row at one point). But his mistakes traveled more than 400 feet, something that tends to happen with frequency in the big leagues.

LaMonte Wade Jr., Thairo Estrada and Mike Yastrzemski each took Gray deep, giving the Giants 142 home runs this season and moving them past the Toronto Blue Jays for the major-league lead. The Giants ranked 12th in the majors in home runs last season and 26th during the last full season, 2019.

Taylor was the Dodgers’ only answer.

“He was great. He had a big night,” Roberts said. “He’s relentless. With two superstars out of the game (Turner and Muncy) and Mookie unavailable, he carried us tonight.”

Taylor led off the game with a double and scored on an RBI single by Muncy. In the fifth inning, he drove a solo home run over the left field fence.

That was all the damage the Dodgers did against Wood. But after he left, Austin Barnes had an RBI double against reliever John Brebbia and Taylor struck again, driving in two with his second home run of the game.

That cut the Giants’ lead to one, 6-5 – within walking distance, as it turned out.

“Yeah, losing JT and Munce is definitely a tough blow – especially when you’re fighting from behind,” Taylor said. “I think we just put our heads down and focused on every out, every at-bat, one inning at a time. We slowly worked our way back into it and gave ourselves a chance at the end.”

Taylor Rogers gave them that chance. The Giants reliever threw six consecutive balls to start the ninth and walked both Taylor and Matt Beaty. Smith came off the bench and hammered one of only three pitches Rogers managed to put over the plate, driving it deep into the left field pavilion as the crowd erupted.

“The 0-0 was actually a pretty good pitch to hit,” Smith said recapping his big moment. “Took it. (He) hung a slider, I put a good swing on it, got it in the air to left and I got it out.”

Smith’s collection of clutch hits includes another pinch-hit walk-off home run (on June 23, 2019 – part of “Rookie Walk-off Weekend”). According to Stats LLC, Smith and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey are the only players in major-league history with two pinch-hit, walk-off home runs before their 27th birthday.

“Will, coming off the bench, just calm and cool – he just keeps getting big hits,” Roberts said.

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Dodgers’ bats go silent against Giants’ bullpen in loss

  • Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger goes to the turn to catch a ball hit by the Giants’ Mike Yastrzemski during the second inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin throws to the plate during Monday’s game against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Giants’ Buster Posey, center, is greeted by teammates as he returns to the dugout after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Giants starting pitcher Kevin Gausman throws to the plate during Monday’s game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Max Muncy points to the sky as he trots toward home plate after hitting a home run during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Justin Turner connects for a home run during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Justin Turner, left, and Max Muncy celebrate after they both hit home runs during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers second baseman Zach McKinstry catches a pop-up by the Giants’ Thairo Estrada during the second inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ James Sherfy breaks his bat as he connects on a pitch from the Giants’ Zack Littell during the fourth inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers shortstop Chris Taylor stops a ground ball hit by the Giants’ Steven Duggar during the fifth inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Max Muncy is forced out at second base as the Giants’ Donovan Solano throws to first to complete a double play during the sixth inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers relief pitcher Victor Gonzalez prepares to throw to the plate during the seventh inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Giants’ Donovan Solano slides home safely as Dodgers catcher Will Smith waits for the throw during the seventh inning of Monday’s game at Dodger Stadium. The Giants scored four runs in the seventh to take control of the game and won, 7-2. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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LOS ANGELES — Thairo Estrada, a 25-year-old infielder from Venezuela, was briefly out of work when the New York Yankees designated him for assignment in April. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for cash a few days later.

Flash forward a few months, a few trips back and forth from Triple-A. Estrada found himself replacing an injured All-Star, Brandon Crawford, in a pivotal game at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. First place in the National League West was on the line.

Not long ago, it seemed the Dodgers had cornered the market on their depth players coming through in the clutch. Never mind that Estrada was a journeyman with a .214 batting average when the season began. He slapped a bases-clearing double to the outfield against Victor Gonzalez, the dagger in the Dodgers’ 7-2 defeat before an announced crowd of 50,970.

The Dodgers knocked out Kevin Gausman, the Giants’ best starter, after three innings. The Giants knocked out Tony Gonsolin (1-1) in the fourth. The bullpens took it from there with the Dodgers trailing, 3-2.

While the Giants threatened often, they did not score again until Gonzalez took over in the seventh inning. It was the left-hander’s first game back from a bout with plantar fasciitis that relegated him to the 10-day injured list.

Gonzalez faced six batters and allowed four hits, including a pair of doubles – by Estrada and Austin Slater – that broke the game open.

The Dodgers’ offense did the bullpen no favors. They did not record a hit between Zach McKinstry’s double to lead off the second inning and AJ Pollock’s single to begin the ninth. The Giants outhit the Dodgers 12-4.

“You have to continue to get baserunners and tack on runs,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They did a good job tonight. To get (Gausman) out of the game, get to the ’pen early, well done. When you get to the ’pen, you have to go for the jugular. Those guys kept us at bay.”

Five San Francisco relievers limited the Dodgers to two baserunners over the final six innings while striking out six.

So it was that the Dodgers (58-37) fell two games out of first place in the National League West. They’re 3-4 against the Giants (59-34) at home this season, losing twice to San Francisco in games that would have given them at least a share of first place.

The longtime rivals have the two best records in all of MLB. For the Dodgers, who fell out of first place in the division on April 29, being second-best never is of little consolation.

“Obviously we’ve got these guys three more times” this week, Roberts said. “I know my focus is to win a baseball game tomorrow. That’s all we can control.”

Both teams hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning.

Buster Posey, making his return from a left thumb contusion, hit a two-run home run in the first. Two pitches later, Wilmer Flores socked a solo home run to left field to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.

In the bottom of the first, Max Muncy greeted Gausman with a solo home run, a towering fly ball that nudged its way inside the right field foul pole. Of Muncy’s 38 career hits against the Giants, 16 are home runs. Eight of Muncy’s 22 home runs this season have come against the Giants.

The next batter, Justin Turner, hit a home run to left-center field, his 17th of the season.

Gonsolin labored through 3⅓ innings, allowing five hits, three runs, and walking four batters. His earned-run average rose from 2.13 to 2.83. His fastball velocity dipped below 90 mph in the fourth inning.

“I felt like I didn’t have great energy today,” Gonsolin said.

While the right-hander began the season on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers filled the fifth starter’s job with a series of bullpen games, effectively holding Gonsolin’s place in the rotation for a month.

Since his return, Gonsolin has completed more than four innings only once in seven starts. His four-seam fastball averaged 95 mph last season. This year it’s down to 93.

Gonsolin has focused on his mechanics between games. He’s pitched exclusively out of the stretch at times. On Monday, he looked no closer to an answer.

“I’m not locating well with the heater,” Gonsolin said. “Slider is hit or miss. Splitter is about hit or miss. Curveball’s actually decent right now.”

After taking part in pregame activities with his teammates on the field, Mookie Betts was scratched from the starting lineup because of irritation in his right hip. Matt Beaty took over in right field and Zach Reks got the start in left.

Betts batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and struck out against left-hander Jake McGee. He will return to the starting lineup Tuesday, Roberts said.

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Dodgers set stadium record for runs scored in win over Diamondbacks

  • Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam ome run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with Chris Taylor #3, Mookie Betts #50 and Walker Buehler #21 after hitting a grand slam home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts at second base after hitting a double sending Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor home to score against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Max Muncy scored. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on as he hits a two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Max Muncy scored. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Caleb Smith #31 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with manager Dave Roberts #30 after hitting a two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Max Muncy scored. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Caleb Smith #31 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with Albert Pujols #55 after hitting a grand slam home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning at Dodger Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES ― Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta camped under a fly ball, watched it fall into his glove, then watched it bounce out and onto the turf at Dodger Stadium. The final out of the seventh inning was squandered.

The next two hitters, Zach McKinstry and Albert Pujols, hit home runs. It was that kind of night.

The Dodgers tied a franchise record by hitting eight home runs in a 22-1 victory over the D-backs. Two were grand slams; Justin Turner hit one in the second inning and Mookie Betts hit another in the seventh. AJ Pollock hit two solo homers against his former team. Pujols hit the 674th and 675th home runs of his career.

Manager Dave Roberts said it was the Dodgers’ best single-game offensive performance in his six seasons as manager. They had only scored 22 runs once before since leaving Brooklyn in 1958, and that was in the offensive haven of Denver’s Coors Field on July 21, 2001. They had never scored 22 runs in a game at Dodger Stadium.

“You’re playing so many close games throughout the year, then to have a game like this, everyone’s playing loose,” Pollock said. “It’s a fun game.”

Cody Bellinger slugged his fourth home run of the season, ending a 3 for 39 malaise in the batter’s box since his last homer on June 27.

Pujols was not nearly so patient. He annihilated a 61-mph fastball from Josh Reddick ― the veteran outfielder making his first career pitching appearance ― in the eighth inning. It was his second homer in as many innings, and his eighth in 38 games since joining the Dodgers in May.

Pujols also hit five home runs in 24 games with the Angels, giving him 13 for the season.

Every Dodger hitter, starter or reserve, reached base at least once. That includes rookie reliever Garrett Cleavinger, who lined a double into left field against Reddick.

“That’s a sign of a really good club: regardless of the score we try to keep winning pitches, not give at-bats away,” Roberts said. “When you do that, good things can really happen.”

The team collected 21 hits, turning the box score into a fantasy baseball owner’s fever dream.

Pollock went 4 for 4. Pujols went 3 for 6. Turner went 3 for 4. Betts went 2 for 3, drew three walks, and finished the game at second base after starting in right field. Gavin Lux, who only replaced Chris Taylor at shortstop in the fourth inning, still had time to finish 1 for 4 with a bases-clearing triple in the eighth inning.

The hits came in bunches. The Dodgers scored five runs in the first and four in the second. They put the game in cruise control until the seventh inning, when they scored seven more runs, helped by Peralta’s error. Another six runs scored in the eighth. The Dodgers finished 8 for 17 with runners in scoring position.

Staked to a 9-0 lead after two innings, starting pitcher Walker Buehler (9-1) followed a wide aisle to a victory.

Buehler, who was named to the National League All-Star team earlier Saturday, threw six scoreless innings before the announced crowd of 44,654. The right-hander walked two batters and struck out seven.

His biggest challenge: maintaining focus in a low-stakes game with little chance of losing.

“I think the biggest thing is still trying to remain hypercritical of yourself,” Buehler said. “Screaming at yourself. Doing stupid stuff. I want to get deep into games, help our team, and preserve the bullpen when I get the ball. It’s a big part of growing into what I want to be.”

Buehler’s stress-free, 95-pitch effort left him in fine shape to pitch at some point in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Roberts said. Earlier Saturday, Roberts said he had not determined who will start and who will relieve that game for the National League. He mentioned Buehler as a candidate alongside the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and the Rockies’ German Marquez.

Arizona (26-65) holds the worst record in baseball, but managed to beat the Dodgers (55-35) for the first time in eight tries Friday. The Dodgers issued seven walks and committed two errors in that game. Saturday’s outcome could not have been more different. What changed?

“Just a new day,” Pollock said. “It’s baseball.”

“I have no idea,” Roberts said.

“With us, it’s about how we play,” Buehler said. “I know that sounds kind of weird and, I don’t want to say arrogant, but that’s how we feel about our team. If we play good, we feel like we have a really good chance to win games. I think yesterday we just didn’t play very well. Today we played really good. That’s a big part of it.”

The Dodgers have one game remaining before the All-Star break. They are two games behind the San Francisco Giants (56-32) for first place in the National League West. They can only hope they saved some momentum for Sunday.

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Dodgers commit 2 errors, issue 7 walks in loss to Diamondbacks

LOS ANGELES ― Friday was a bullpen game for the Dodgers. That much was planned.

Issuing seven walks and committing two errors against the worst team in baseball? That was all spur of the moment.

The Dodgers’ 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was difficult to watch.

AJ Pollock did most of the damage on offense against his former team. He hit a solo home run in the third inning against Diamondbacks starter Taylor Widener. He led off the seventh inning with a double and scored on a pair of groundouts.

Pollock finished 2 for 3 with a walk out of the number-8 spot in the batting order. The rest of the Dodgers went 3 for 29 with seven strikeouts. They went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base.

With the lineup struggling to score against the Diamondbacks – who lost 17 consecutive games at one point this season and are currently 26-64 – the particulars of the bullpen game might not have mattered to the final outcome.

The particulars weren’t always pretty. Rookie right-hander Edwin Uceta walked three of the six batters he faced in the ninth inning, the last one with the bases loaded. Another rookie, Jake Reed, followed and issued a bases-loaded walk himself. That provided the final score.

The Dodgers (54-35) have lost four of their last five games.

“When you’re not scoring runs consistently, things certainly get more magnified,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s hard to pitch perfect. We’ve got to be good on defense. When you’re not scoring runs, you’ve got to make sure those things are airtight. Tonight it wasn’t so.”

Starter David Price navigated more traffic than some in the announced crowd of 49,215 at Dodger Stadium over three scoreless innings.

Price, who joined the Dodgers’ short-term rotation plans in the absence of Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, allowed four hits, walked one and hit another batter. He struck out David Peralta with the bases loaded to end the first inning. He struck out Peralta again and got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground out, to strand a pair of runners in the third inning. His day ended after 51 pitches.

After the game Price lamented his efficiency. Overall it was a promising performance for the 35-year-old lefty. He’s a veteran of 315 major league starts, ninth among active pitchers. He’ll take batting practice with the other starters tomorrow.

Price, Roberts said, “answered the bell.”

For the most part, the six relievers who followed were only as successful as the fielders behind them.

Darien Nuñez made his major league debut in the fourth inning and retired the side in order. The fifth inning didn’t go as well for the 28-year-old lefty.

Nick Ahmed hit a dribbler to third base, where Justin Turner allowed the ball to sneak under his glove into left field. Ahmed reached second base, then stole third. No team has allowed more steals of third base this season (nine) than the Dodgers.

One batter later, Eduardo Escobar poked a home run over the short fence in right field, giving the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead. Only one of the two runs was earned. Nuñez was stuck with an 0-1 record and a 4.50 career ERA.

Another error led to another Arizona run in the seventh inning.

With Joe Kelly on the mound and Josh Rojas on first base after a walk, Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy tried to backhand a softly hit ground ball off Escobar’s bat. The ball trickled under Muncy’s glove into right field, Rojas reached third base, and the Diamondbacks had new life with one out.

Kelly hit Christian Walker with an errant changeup to load the bases, then got the ground ball he needed from Peralta. Yet by the time Gavin Lux got to it behind second base, all four runners were safe. The Dodgers trailed, 3-1.

In the ninth inning, Uceta and Reed became the third and fourth rookies to take the ball in relief. Their combined line: One inning, one hit, two runs, four walks, two strikeouts.

“It’s kind of a byproduct of where our guys are at, as far as workload and how things have worked out,” Roberts said of the rookies’ usage. “I thought it was a very good debut for Nuñez. He gave up a homer on a ball at the top of the zone. For him to go out and give us two innings, that was good.”

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Shohei Ohtani flexes power, finesse on mound in Angels’ win

  • The Angels’ Max Stassi celebrates with Shohei Ohtani after hitting a home run during the first inning of Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium. finished 3 for 4, a triple short of the cycle, in the Angels’ 5-3 win. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Boston’s Kiké Hernandez is safe at second base after Angels shortstop Jose Iglesias, left, doesn’t catch a throw to second during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Boston’s Kiké Hernandez slides into second base with a double against Jose Iglesias #4 of the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Boston’s Kiké Hernandez, left, celebrates with teammate Xander Bogaerts (2) after scoring off of a sacrifice fly hit by J.D. Martinez during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels is checked for foreign substances during a game against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (17) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Max Stassi (33) hits a home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Max Stassi (33) runs the bases after hitting a home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (17) celebrates in the dugout after scoring off of a home run hit by Max Stassi during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo (99) points after doubling during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws to the plate during the first inning of Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox at Angel Stadium. Ohtani held AL East-leading Boston to two runs over seven innings and had an RBI double in a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Connor Wong #74 of the Boston Red Sox gestures from second base after hitting a double against the Los Angeles Angels in the fifth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox hits a single against the Los Angeles Angels in the fifth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. Connor Wong scored. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his single with first base cocah Tom Goodwin #82 against the Los Angeles Angels in the fifth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. Connor Wong scored. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts (2) flies out to center field during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Angels right fielder Taylor Ward (3) and center fielder Juan Lagares (19) celebrate after Lagares caught a fly ball hit by Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Brandon Workman (44) throws during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (17) reacts to striking out during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Angels’ Max Stassi (33) singles during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Boston Red Sox’s Rafael Devers, left, is safe at second base on a passed ball during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. Los Angeles Angels’ David Fletcher (22) is at right. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox reacts to a call before being subbed out of the game against the Los Angeles Angels in the sixth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Raisel Iglesias #32 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. The Los Angeles Angels won, 5-3. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Boston Red Sox’s Hunter Renfroe (10) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Raisel Iglesias #32 of the Los Angeles Angels celebrates after closing out the ninth inning to defeat the Boston Red Sox 5-3 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 06, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Angels relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias celebrates with catcher Max Stassi, right, after closing out their 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

  • Angels relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias celebrates with catcher Max Stassi, right, after closing out their 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • A fan fits a baseball through a hole in the net to get an autograph from Angels right fielder Taylor Ward, right, before a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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ANAHEIM ― As a hitter, Shohei Ohtani has evolved into the most prolific slugger in the game. He didn’t add to his major league-leading total of 31 home runs against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, but it was not for lack of effort. Even his swings and misses elicited oohs and ahhs from the announced crowd of 28,669 at Angel Stadium.

As a pitcher, Ohtani alternated between power and finesse for seven innings in a 5-3 Angels victory. The fourth inning ended when Ohtani got Rafael Devers to ground out on a 99-mph fastball. The fifth inning ended when Ohtani got Danny Santana to fly out on a 68-mph curveball.

When the seventh inning ended, Ohtani received a standing ovation for his 89-pitch effort. It was not flashy; Ohtani’s opponent, Nathan Eovaldi, coaxed more swings and misses from the opposing lineup. But it was more than enough to give a beleaguered bullpen a breather, and give the Angels an uplifting win over the first-place team in the American League East.

Ohtani allowed just two runs and five hits over seven innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out four. He got help from center fielder Juan Lagares, who leaped to rob a potential two-run home run from Xander Bogaerts to end the sixth inning.

The Red Sox had been averaging five runs per game. Ohtani had faced them only once before, in April 2018, and he was knocked out after completing just two innings. On Tuesday, he made a believer of Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“He’s a different pitcher than in ’18,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “When we came here (in April 2018) … the stuff was electric. Today, yeah, he threw hard … but he pitched. He knows what he’s doing out there. It’s amazing what he’s doing. Unreal.”

The Angels (43-42) will close out their six-game homestand on Wednesday afternoon with the rubber match against the Red Sox (54-33).

Angels catcher Max Stassi capped a three-run first inning with a two-run home run, his sixth of the season. He finished 3 for 4, a triple short of the cycle. David Fletcher went 4 for 4 and extended his hitting streak to 20 games, the longest by an American League player this season.

Ohtani helped his own cause with an RBI double in the first inning as the Angels racked up 11 hits.

“I felt like I had good rhythm, good mechanics,” he said through his interpreter. “It was a lot different from my last start.”

Ohtani (4-1) rebounded splendidly from a brutal outing last Wednesday in the Bronx. The Yankees took advantage of four walks to score seven runs in the first inning. Ohtani recorded just two outs and saw his earned-run average swell from 2.58 to 3.60.

On a warm West Coast night, Ohtani’s command was not an issue Tuesday. He faced 26 hitters and went to a 3-ball count only once.

“I’m really used to the Angel Stadium mound, so it’s easy to keep my mechanics pretty steady,” he said. “When I go on the road, the mound’s different at every ballpark. I need to make that adjustment going forward.”

Ohtani said he intentionally shifted his focus from pitching for strikeouts to simply recording outs because of his opponent – a first-place team with a penchant for scoring runs.

Angels manager Joe Maddon was hopeful that Ohtani can “throttle down” more often in the future.

“I am certain he is going to follow exactly what he did tonight and how it felt,” Maddon said.

Red Sox center fielder Kiké Hernandez began the game with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez, but the Angels never trailed after the first inning. They went 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

In the sixth inning, they chased Eovaldi by loading the bases and scoring a pair of insurance runs. The first scored on an RBI groundout by Jose Iglesias. The next scored on an infield single by Fletcher.

Ohtani did not remain in the game as an outfielder after he exited. Mike Mayers pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Raisel Iglesias allowed a solo home run to Martinez in the ninth inning en route to his 17th save of the season.

Stassi had not caught Ohtani since his first start of the season, back in April against the Chicago White Sox. This time, Ohtani was more effective at changing speeds, dialing his fastball and curveball up or down at will. The slow curve, Stassi said, “came into the equation when I put the two (fingers) down.”

The veteran catcher recalled one at-bat in which Santana saw a 67-mph curveball from Ohtani.

“The next pitch was a 99-mph fastball,” Stassi said. “That’s just not fair.”

“He PITCHED today!”

Joe Maddon talks Ohtani’s outing, Stassi’s catching, and Lagares’ outstanding catch#WeBelieve I @Angels pic.twitter.com/qOkXYEg1Hi

— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) July 7, 2021

You don’t want to face Sho at the A. https://t.co/r9MXHuKCtR pic.twitter.com/BbHeMncTps

— MLB (@MLB) July 7, 2021

Shohei LOVES playing at the Big 🅰 ❤#WeBelieve I @Angels pic.twitter.com/CXMFXhp51j

— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) July 7, 2021

“It would probably have to have a couple outfielders fall down for me to get to third base.”

Max Stassi on his (almost) cycle😂#WeBelieve I @Angels pic.twitter.com/QPCrFLN6FH

— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) July 7, 2021

Juan really brought that back 😱 pic.twitter.com/kTQgNXKySB

— MLB (@MLB) July 7, 2021

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Josh Rawitch rises from Dodgers intern to Hall of Fame President

The first choice a man must make before entering Cooperstown, New York is an airport: Albany or Syracuse. Last week, Josh Rawitch chose Albany. His new job ― his new life ― awaits 70 miles to the west, a remote and frigid place for a kid from the San Fernando Valley.

It’s a massive transition for Rawitch, 44, rife with many choices beyond the arriving airport. The newly appointed president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has two months to sort it all out.

Shopping will be critical. Rawitch said he does not own winter clothing. Neither does his wife, Erin, or their two children. The couple met while attending Indiana University Bloomington. They relocated to Los Angeles, then Phoenix. Their definition of winter hasn’t involved snow since college.

In Cooperstown, snow was recorded in the region over 11 separate days in January.

“We’re buying entirely new wardrobes,” Rawitch said in a telephone interview from Albany.

The film industry routinely upcycles stories of small-town dreamers with big-city ambitions. Rawitch is taking the opposite path from Chatsworth to Cooperstown (population 2,032), a story seldom told.

His father, Bob, worked for the Los Angeles Times as a reporter and editor. His mother, Cynthia, is a retired professor and administrator at Cal State Northridge. They fostered Josh’s love for baseball as a child, taking him to his first game at Dodger Stadium late in the 1983 season.

The love never faltered. In 1995, a 17-year-old Rawitch landed an internship with the Dodgers. His first assignments were in advertising and special events ― “basically marketing before they called it marketing,” Rawitch said. He helped with a fan appreciation event called Think Blue Week. He wrote scripts for the public address announcer. Nobody made him fetch coffee that he could recall.

“Everybody who’s done this, it’s intoxicating,” Rawitch said. “You just can’t help but be smiling when you’re around (baseball). I remember Tommy Lasorda used to say all the time, ‘if you do what you love you never work a day in your life.’ There’s only a handful of days in almost 30 years that I feel like I was actually working.”

Early in his internship, Rawitch said he had designs of becoming a major league general manager. He even asked Dodgers’ GM at the time, Fred Claire, for 30 minutes to pick his brain. (Claire obliged.)

But Rawitch’s career did not follow that path. After college he covered the Dodgers for MLB.com. He transitioned to the team’s public relations department, eventually becoming vice president of communications. He took a similar job with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012 and has been there ever since. The Hall of Fame president’s job became available when Tim Mead, the Angels’ former VP of communications, resigned in April.

This job is more prestigious than that of a GM in many ways. The Hall of Fame has employed eight presidents in its 82-year history. There are 30 major league general managers, or their equivalent in title. Their average shelf life is far shorter than 10 years.

The Hall of Fame President does a lot of general managing too, albeit for a nonprofit educational institution with fewer than 100 full-time employees, in a bucolic setting more than an hour’s drive from the nearest major city. During Rawitch’s second interview in Cooperstown, he said, the uniqueness of the job crystallized.

“You recognize how much passion each person has not just for baseball but for Cooperstown ― the pride in living in the village and taking care of each other,” Rawitch said. “It’s the quintessential American town. A part of that is intriguing to me. Being able to stay in baseball with such a prestigious organization but not be tied to the baseball schedule like I have the last 27 years, being able to be home for dinner ― literally a 2-minute walk from the office to the house ― that’s really intriguing as well.”

There are others in baseball with Rawitch’s passion. Some even have a comparable resume. What makes him best suited for the task?

“His personality, his people skills, he is a solution guy, his positive attitude, his ability to articulate the correct way of doing it,” said Dan Evans, who worked with Rawitch as the Dodgers’ GM from 2001-04. “Being bilingual makes him more special because he’s able to communicate directly with 95 percent of the people in the game. He brings a consistent professionalism that’s above and beyond most other people. He combines it with a passion for people and for relationships. That’s a remarkable strand of DNA.”

Claire said he once received a stack of media guides from an 18-year-old Rawitch while eating breakfast at the Pie ‘N Burger in Pasadena. Those memories exist as a flash now, but they lasted long enough that Claire was not surprised by the news of Rawitch’s new title.

“I think it’s a perfect job for him,” Claire said. “I donated the 1988 World Series ball to the Hall of Fame a number of years ago. I’m sure Josh will keep a close eye on that.”

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