Christian Walker frustrates Dodgers in series loss to Arizona: 'He's Babe Ruth against us'



?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2F3a%2F99%2F2be43bdc46daa41e040d957b4d2c%2F1464358 sp dodgers diamondbacks 1 gmf

The Dodgers dugout sat in quiet dejection.

Two rows behind it, a Dodgers fan rose to his feet and began bowing down.

Rounding the bases before them was the club’s new No. 1 enemy, a decent MLB slugger who, during trips to Dodger Stadium in recent years, suddenly performs like a cross between Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth.

Once again, Christian Walker had the Dodgers’ number.

For a second straight night, he hit two home runs to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 9-3, rubber-match win at Chavez Ravine.

“Obviously,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sighed after the game, “he feels really comfortable in the box against us.”

Entering this week, Walker already had a reputation as a Dodgers killer. In 87 games against them, he’d hit 22 home runs and collected 50 RBIs. His numbers against franchise icon Clayton Kershaw were especially good, with a .294 batting average against the future Hall of Famer.

“I got some thoughts,” Kershaw, who remains sidelined following offseason shoulder surgery, told reporters Thursday afternoon about how the team could neutralize Walker in the series finale. “For our guys, not for you.”

Whatever Kershaw was thinking, it didn’t stop Walker.

After hitting one home run in Tuesday’s series opener, then two more in Wednesday’s rout of the Dodgers, Walker continued his weeklong tear with another explosion, taking his place among the Dodgers’ most fearsome foes. Since 2002, Walker’s 19 home runs at Dodger Stadium are tied for most by any visiting player, matching former Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt. Among visiting players with at least 100 plate appearances in that span, Walker’s .783 slugging percentage is first, while his .341 batting average is second.

Both of Walker’s home runs Thursday came off rookie starter Landon Knack.

In the first inning, Walker followed a Joc Pederson home run with a solo blast, hammering a two-strike fastball at the bottom of the zone. In the third inning, Walker launched a two-run shot deep to left, opening a 4-0 lead on a hanging changeup Knack left over the plate.

“We just don’t make good pitches against him,” Roberts said. “That’s just the bottom line.”

The most telling moment of Walker’s Dodgers dominance might have come in the the fifth. With a runner on second, two outs and left-handed reliever Anthony Banda on the mound, Roberts raised four fingers from the dugout.

An intentional walk.

To a hitter who, in ballparks other than Dodger Stadium, was batting .257 with a .788 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this year.

“When we’re living it, it digs a little deeper,” Roberts said of the team’s frustrations with Walker, which were only amplified by sarcastic cheers from the crowd following the walk.

“He’s Babe Ruth against us,” the manager added.

While Walker drew one more walk the rest of the night — he finished two for three Thursday and eight for 13 in the series with five home runs and nine RBIs — his contributions were enough to key the Diamondbacks’ series-clinching win.

The Dodgers scored three runs in the fourth inning on a groundout from Kiké Hernández and a two-run single from Austin Barnes to cut it to 4-3. But after a fielding flub by Freddie Freeman in the fifth helped the Diamondbacks double their advantage, Arizona’s bullpen shut the door over the final five innings, while its lineup tacked on four insurance runs the ninth.

“We have shown how we’re gonna have to fight back,” outfielder Jason Heyward said of the team’s play over the last week, in which it dropped back-to-back series for the first time since late May. “We’re gonna have to figure out ways to do that and weather the storm.”

Of bigger concern for the Dodgers was Heyward, who exited after two innings because of left knee pain.

On Pederson’s home run in the first inning, Heyward injured his knee after leaping at the wall. Roberts said Heyward was unlikely to play Friday and was scheduled to get an MRI.

“As soon as I landed, it felt like one of those trust falls; it happened fast,” Heyward said. “Put my feet down and I was like ‘All right, this doesn’t feel great’ … You just kind of have to wait and see.”

Heyward took only one at-bat, grounding out in the first. The veteran has been slumping, just three for 35 in his last 12 games.

Nonetheless, the veteran remains a key part of the outfield platoon, playing most days in right field given the Dodgers’ heavy dose of opposing right-handed pitchers. Any extended absence might only amplify the Dodgers’ growing need to bolster their depth before the July 30 trade deadline.

The team’s sudden 2-4 slide — even when accounting for Walker’s dominance — has highlighted that dynamic enough on its own.

“We couldn’t do anything after that one big inning,” Roberts said, before evaluating his team’s last week bluntly: “It’s not pretty.”



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