Dodgers' road-trip finale mirrors first week

Great start dissolves into disappointing finish

Dodgers' road-trip finale mirrors first week

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pitchers Scott Kazmir and J.P. Howell struggled to explain how it happened, Kazmir squandering a five-run first-inning lead, Howell again unable to retire a batter, the Dodgers beaten for a third time in four days by the rival Giants.

"They were tougher than me," Howell said after a fluky Denard Span infield single got past him before Joe Panik doubled home two off the lefty reliever in the Giants' 9-6 win Sunday.

"Pitches right in their wheelhouse and they made me pay," starter Kazmir said after allowing three Giants home runs to wipe out the 5-0 lead against Johnny Cueto in a clunker of an encore to his six-inning one-hitter in San Diego.

And therein are the extremes of Dave Roberts' first week as a Major League manager, which started with a three-game steamrolling of the Padres, but was followed by an entirely different experience against an entirely different quality of team.

The Dodgers were able to pull out a 10th-inning win Saturday. But two days before Kazmir let his lead get away, Alex Wood did the same with a four-run lead to a Giants team that Roberts knows all too well, having played for opposing manager Bruce Bochy and his staff.

"You get five in the first and have Cueto on the ropes and score one more run the other eight innings, that's why you've got to play a complete game," said Roberts. "Those guys don't quit; they play every inning. It's a tough group.

"Look at their at-bats through the game, it was a hitting clinic. [Giants hitting coach Hensley Muelens] teaches team offense, guys getting them over and getting them in."

The Dodgers did all of those textbook offensive skills in the first inning, when the Giants had their bullpen in action. But Cueto turned back into the pitcher the Giants signed for six years and $120 million, shortly before the Dodgers signed Kazmir for three years and $48 million.

Dodgers' five-run 1st inning

Roberts conceded his roller-coaster first week didn't end the way he had hoped.

"Maybe wasted opportunities," he said of the three losses, in which the Dodgers held big leads in two of them and had debuting rookie Ross Stripling throw 7 1/3 hitless innings in the other. "Yeah, we could have won four games."

Cueto is the first Giants starter to win after allowing five or more runs in the first inning in 14 years. Kazmir is the first Dodgers pitcher to allow three Giants homers in a game since Kaz Ishii 12 years ago. The home runs by Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt were on cutters, the one by Buster Posey a changeup.

Howell, meanwhile, didn't retire any of the six batters he faced in two Giants games and has a 54.00 ERA. He said his health is fine, he has no excuses and that it's too soon to even guess what's wrong.

Closer Kenley Jansen is the only reliever that hasn't been scored upon, but Roberts said he trusts the bullpen.

"I think the 'pen's going to be fine," he said. "Can't always be hitting on all cylinders, so really, no concern."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.