Dodgers facing playoff elimination after another shutout loss to Giants

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All Mookie Betts could do was scream, collect his bat off the ground and chop at the air, incredulity sweeping through him and everyone else in blue.

The line drive he just smashed traveled 100.4 mph through the air. It’s a hit in nearly every conceivable situation and, in this case, would’ve tied Game 3 of the National League Division Series in the seventh inning. Steven Souza Jr., the tying run, already was halfway to third base. The Dodgers were poised to finally break through. Dodger Stadium was ready to burst. Brandon Crawford had another idea.

With a leap, the San Francisco Giants shortstop snagged the scalded baseball from the air and landed with the third out to stunned silence. The acrobatics rendered the batted ball’s .830 expected batting average moot. Crawford was precisely positioned. His timing was even better, and the Dodgers were left with nothing.

The highlight was the difference in the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss as they dropped behind their storied rivals 2-1 in the best-of-five series. They will face elimination in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 p.m.

The Dodgers outhit the Giants five to three, but the Giants got the big hit when Evan Longoria somehow managed to drive a fly ball through the thick wind for a home run off Max Scherzer in the fifth inning.

The series shifted from San Francisco to Los Angeles for Game 3, but the weather didn’t budge. Strong wind blowing from left to right made for a scene more common at old Candlestick Park than Dodger Stadium. Palm trees swayed. The foul poles rocked back and forth. The light posts shook. Trash swirled, bits rising from the field to the reserve level. In the press box, ceiling panels bounced.

Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer, left, looks back after allowing a solo home run to San Francisco's Evan Longoria.

Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer, left, looks back after allowing a solo home run to San Francisco’s Evan Longoria during the fifth inning. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Gusts shot up to 45 mph at first pitch. The wind was so stiff that it knocked Scherzer over while he wound up for his fourth delivery. Scherzer threw 25 pitches in the first inning. The Giants had two runners reach base and fouled several pitches off. They challenged him. But Scherzer got Kris Bryant swinging for his third strikeout to maneuver free.

On the other side, Los Angeles didn’t have a runner reach base against former Dodger Alex Wood until Albert Pujols flared a leadoff single down the right field in the third inning. The husky 41-year-old, making his first playoff start since 2014 with the Angels, took second base on Scherzer’s sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He was left there when Betts popped out to end the inning.

Scherzer had settled down by then. He retired 12 of 13 Giants after Buster Posey’s single in the first inning. He piled up eight strikeouts through four innings. The smooth cruise stopped in the fifth.

Dodgers batter AJ Pollock leaves the field after popping out in the ninth inning against the Giants on Monday.

Dodgers batter AJ Pollock leaves the field after popping out in the ninth inning against the Giants on Monday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Longoria, leading off, fell behind 0-and-2 against Scherzer before fouling off two pitches. The next pitch was a 96-mph fastball over the plate. Longoria slashed it over the wall in left field, muting the crowd with the stunning power display.

To that point, the Dodgers’ only hit was Pujols’ single. Wood worked around two walks in the fourth inning, inducing a fielder’s choice groundout to cease the threat. An inning later, Pujols, the oldest player to start a postseason game in Dodgers history, came through again, smashing a leadoff single through the left side. With it, Pujols became the oldest player with multiple hits in a playoff game since a 45-year-old Julio Franco in 2003.

Thirsting for a run, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts chose to replace Pujols with pinch-runner Billy McKinney. Pujols jogged off the field to an ovation. McKinney, meanwhile, finished his stretching routine at first base. He didn’t need one. Will Smith flied out, Scherzer struck out failing to drop a sacrifice bunt and Betts grounded out to Crawford, who ranged to his left to make a difficult play look elementary. McKinney was left stranded.

Dodgers batter Gavin Lux reacts after flying out to end the game on Monday.

Dodgers batter Gavin Lux reacts after flying out to end the game on Monday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Longoria’s blast would be Scherzer’s only blip. The right-hander retired the side in order in the seventh inning, walking off the mound at 110 pitches. He reached 10 strikeouts by getting LaMonte Wade Jr. to whiff on a cutter for the inning’s second out, becoming the first pitcher in playoff history to record double-digit strikeout games with three franchises (Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers).

Scherzer gave up three hits and walked one, rebounding from three subpar starts after nine straight dominant outings to begin his Dodgers career.

It was the masterful October performance the Dodgers imagined when they acquired him at the July 30 trade deadline. But the Dodgers needed a flawless one on a night when the wind howled and the muzzled offense couldn’t catch a break.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.



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