Dodgers' lefty struggles resurface

Dodgers' lefty struggles resurface

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are better equipped this year to face left-handed pitching. That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

It just didn't look like it Tuesday night, when they couldn't get a runner to second base over eight scoreless innings against San Diego lefty Clayton Richard, blanked 4-0 one day after tallying 14 runs in a game started by Padres right-hander Jhoulys Chacin.

"Last year, we didn't hit lefties," said manager Dave Roberts, whose club was 22-24 against left-handed starters in 2016. "This year, I think we have a completely different mindset."

Maybe, but they are 0-1 against southpaws so far, as Richard scattered five singles and induced a dozen ground balls, four for double plays.

"Winning's fun at any level, but especially at the big league level against the best talent and the best competition," said Richard.

Richard's scoreless start

The Dodgers made right-handed hitting an offseason priority. They traded for second baseman Logan Forsythe and signed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, the former to send left-handed-hitting second baseman Chase Utley to the bench, the latter known for feasting on lefties.

And if not for them, it would have been a Padres two-hitter, as Forsythe had a pair of hits and Gutierrez, who started in left field, had one. Enrique Hernandez went 0-for-2 with a walk starting in center field for Joc Pederson, who drove in five runs on Opening Day. Yasmani Grandal, who homered from both sides of the plate Monday, went 0-for-3.

"Logan had really good at-bats, and Guti had a good approach," said Roberts. "Tonight's one of those nights, Clayton Richard kept the ball down, and quite honestly, I don't know, if he was out there against any team he would have had a lot of success.

"We know Clayton, he sort of reinvented himself a couple years ago. ... His game is to keep the ball on the ground. He's a high-percentage sinker, and that's what he did."

According to Statcast™, hitters "topped" 56 percent of their batted balls against him last season -- that is, hit them straight into the ground -- the third-highest rate among pitchers with at least 150 total batted balls. In his only start against the Dodgers last year, he allowed one run in five innings of a no-decision.

And Richard had an early lead with which to work. Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda had leadoff batter Travis Jankowski 0-2 in the count before walking him, triggering an unlucky and tiring 29-pitch, two-run first inning.

"Kenta's fastball command early wasn't where it should have been," said Roberts. "As the game went on, Kenta threw the ball well."

Maeda, charged with three runs in five innings, said he might have been a little too amped up.

"Since it was my first start of the year, I was a little too excited and I didn't throw as many strikes as I wanted to," said Maeda.

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who missed most of Spring Training with an oblique strain, went 0-for-4 and didn't appear comfortable in the field.

"I don't know if he's guarding it. As I understand it he's healthy," said Roberts. "He's a little out of sync, just the rhythm defensively. He isn't where he needs to be. We have to keep running him out there, but right now, it's easy to see."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.