Dodgers drop series to Rangers after stars fail to deliver in key moment

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The table could not have been set any better for the Dodgers on Thursday night, their two-run deficit seemingly on the verge of disappearing in the eighth inning after Cavan Biggio was hit by a pitch and Austin Barnes singled to right field, putting runners on first and third with no outs for the top of the order.

But three of the best hitters in baseball, a trio that has four most valuable player awards among them and has combined for 36 home runs and 125 RBIs this season, failed to deliver in an eventual 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers before 50,134 at Dodger Stadium.

Veteran right-hander Michael Lorenzen threw seven strong innings for the Rangers, giving up one run and four hits, striking out two and walking one, his only blemish a hanging sweeper that Andy Pages lined into the left-field seats for a solo homer that pulled the Dodgers to within 3-1 in the seventh.

Setup man David Robertson replaced Lorenzen to start the eighth and hit Biggio, the No. 8 batter, in the back foot with a breaking ball. Barnes, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a single to right to put men on the corners.

But leadoff man Mooke Betts and No. 2 hitter Shohei Ohtani each struck out on three pitches, Betts swinging through a 93-mph cut-fastball and Ohtani whiffing on an 86-mph, down-and-in knuckle-curve.

Freddie Freeman worked a five-pitch at-bat but struck out swinging through an 89-mph knuckle-curve, making Robertson the only pitcher this season to strike out Betts, Ohtani and Freeman in succession. The Rangers right-hander also accomplished the feat in the eighth inning Wednesday night.

Texas closer Kirby Yates struck out three of four batters in the ninth for his 10th save, including a 10-pitch battle against Jason Heyward that ended with the Dodgers right fielder swinging through an 86-mph split-fingered fastball.

With Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s start pushed from Thursday night to Saturday to give the right-hander extra rest after he threw a season-high 106 pitches in a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees on June 7, the Dodgers opted for a bullpen game on Thursday night.

The Dodgers have excelled in such games, going 13-8 with a 3.86 ERA in 21 of them since the start of 2022, including a June 21, 2023, shutout in which seven relievers combined to allow two hits in a 2-0 win over the Angels, a relay effort that turned that season around for a struggling bullpen.

The Dodgers also caught a break when Rangers slugger Corey Seager, whose three-run homer off Walker Buehler powered Texas to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night, was scratched an hour before the game because of left-hamstring tightness, an injury that has hampered the shortstop for the past week.

But this one did not start well for the Dodgers, as “opener” Michael Grove allowed three hits in a two-run first inning and “bulk man” Ryan Yarbrough gave up two singles and walked three in the third inning but somehow limited the damage to one run.

Josh Smith and Adolis Garcia hit one-out singles in the first inning, and Smith scored on Nathaniel Lowe’s RBI groundout for a 1-0 Texas lead. Wyatt Langford then flared an RBI single to shallow right field that left his bat at 67 mph and traveled just 181 feet to push the lead to 2-0.

Marcus Semien led off the third with a single to center off Yarbrough and took second on Smith’s sacrifice bunt. Adolis Garcia walked. Semien was thrown out at third on the front end of a double-steal attempt, but Lowe walked to put two on.

Langford then burned the Dodgers with another bloop RBI single, this one leaving his bat at 60 mph and traveling 167 feet to shallow right field and just beyond the glove of first baseman Freeman for a 3-0 lead.

Yarbrough walked Jonah Heim to load the bases but struck out Travis Jankowski with a 72-mph curve to prevent further damage.

The Dodgers’ bullpen then found its footing, with Yarbrough throwing a scoreless fourth, right-hander Yohan Ramirez allowing one hit in a scoreless fifth and sixth, and right-hander Blake Treinen (seventh), left-hander Alex Vesia (eighth) and right-hander Evan Phillips (ninth) adding scoreless innings.

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