Dodgers disappointed after having Webb ‘on the ropes' early


Dodgers disappointed after having Webb ‘on the ropes’ early originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knew the challenge his team faced Wednesday night in their pursuit of sweeping the Giants on the road and improving to 6-0 on the season against their storied NL West rivals.

As he gave the ball to 29-year-old Elieser Hernandez for the first time this season, Giants manager Bob Melvin entrusted staff ace Logan Webb to get back in the win column one night after an eight-run, blowout loss. Roberts acknowledged the difficulties the Dodgers were facing in Webb during his pregame availability, comparing the arsenal of the 2023 NL Cy Young Award runner-up to that of a backyard pitcher throwing a wiffle ball.

“Very durable, really good competitor,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to kind of square him up, because the ball moves everywhere. He doesn’t scare off. I think he’s probably one of the most underrated starters in baseball. … Every time he takes the ball, they have a good chance to win.”

The competitor in Webb shined brightest in a gritty 4-1 Giants win, especially after a tough beginning to what looked like a possible long ballgame in favor of the Dodgers.

Mookie Betts led the game off  by lining a low changeup out of the strike zone to center field, followed by a six-pitch walk to Shohei Ohtani to bring star first baseman Freddie Freeman to the plate. Having Betts and Ohtani’s speed on the bases and Freeman in the batter’s box is never good for a pitcher, even one of Webb’s caliber. But Webb locked in and sent Freeman back to the dugout on a foul-tip strikeout into catcher Curt Casali’s glove.

Dodgers catcher Will Smith then worked a nine-pitch at-bat that ended with him being hit by a pitch on his left arm. Just like that, Webb already had thrown 23 pitches through his first four batters of the game, recorded only one out and loaded the bases for Max Muncy, who entered the night having a .375 career batting average off Webb – including three home runs.

Webb struck out Muncy in four pitches and escaped a scoreless first inning after Teoscar Hernandez lined out to right fielder Mike Yastrzemski. The Dodgers brought six batters to dish, forced Webb to throw 32 pitches and had nothing to show for it.

The first inning was their opportunity to capitalize on Webb’s mistakes, and their shortcomings from those three outs lingered after the loss.

“That first inning we had Webb on the ropes, and we couldn’t cash in right there,” Roberts said. “Then he settled in and we really didn’t threaten after that.”

A lineup of MLB All-Stars and MVP candidates has dominated opposing pitchers this season. The Dodgers before Wednesday night were leading the National League in batting average, hits, home runs, doubles, runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and also walks.

But they left 11 men on base and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

The top of the fifth inning was the Dodgers’ second chance at getting to Webb, and they again failed to do so. Ohtani hit a two-out single up the middle and advanced to third base on a Freeman liner to right field, but Ohtani was held 90 feet from scoring the Dodgers’ first run of the night when Smith grounded a force out to shortstop Casey Schmitt.

“We were kind of knocking on the door several times tonight, just couldn’t cash them in,” Smith said. “He never gives in. Has really good stuff. He was bearing down after the first inning and was able to escape with a zero.

“You just tip your cap and try to get to the next inning. I thought we stuck to our plan. We made it really hard on him, we just didn’t cash in on some runs and that happens sometimes.”

What looked like a short outing for Webb ended with him going six scoreless innings where he gave up on three hits, and also had three strikeouts while walking three. The Dodgers went 18 batters before recording another hit off Webb after Betts’ lead-off single. Webb after the first inning averaged just slightly over 14 pitches per his final five innings, and two of his three strikeouts came in his final inning of the night.

“It’s 30-plus pitches, and I’m wondering how he’s going to go four [innings], let alone six,” Melvin said after the win.

The Dodgers have a short flight back to Los Angeles, but that first inning will be a frustrating one for Roberts and others alike to look back at knowing what could have been.

The Giants, at 20-25, somehow are only 1.5 games out of the third NL wild-card spot after Wednesday’s win. Webb earned his first career regular-season home win against LA by bearing down and being the bulldog the Giants badly needed him to be, possibly creating the perfect amount of momentum before hosting the last-place, but red-hot, Colorado Rockies for three games at Oracle Park.

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