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Dodgers pitchers struggle, issuing 14 walks in series-dropping loss to Padres

Dodgers reliever J.P. Feyereisen stares out of the dugout after giving up a three-run double to San Diego's Jurickson Profar.
Dodgers reliever J.P. Feyereisen stares out of the dugout after giving up a three-run double to San Diego’s Jurickson Profar in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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For so-called superteams like the Dodgers included, there is a universal kryptonite from which even a $300-million payroll isn’t immune.

Walks.

In a 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday, the Dodgers issued 14 of them, shooting themselves in the foot again and again and again to drop a three-game weekend series at Chavez Ravine.

Free passes hadn’t exactly been an issue for the Dodgers this season. Entering Sunday, they had the 11th-lowest walk rate in the majors.

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But between James Paxton’s wild command (he walked eight in five-plus innings) and more shaky performances from the underbelly of a worn-out bullpen (culminating with a tiebreaking three-spot against J.P. Feyereisen in the seventh inning), the team’s fifth loss in its last nine games felt entirely of its own making.

Dodgers pitcher Bobby Miller is dealing with shoulder inflammation and it’s unclear when he might return to the active roster.

April 14, 2024

Not since 1962 had a Dodgers pitching staff walked so many batters in a single game.

And before he began his postgame news conference, manager Dave Roberts couldn’t help but huff a deep sigh of apparent frustration.

“It’s hard to win a baseball game when you give up 14 bases by way of walk,” Roberts said. “Ultimately, it’s going to show itself. And it did today.”

For a while, the Dodgers (11-7) were hoping it might not — enjoying a brief lead in the middle innings courtesy of their star-studded core.

After Paxton largely limited the damage through four innings — a solo home run by Manny Machado was his only early blemish on the scoreboard, thanks in no small part to a couple of key double plays behind him — the Dodgers surged to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, when Will Smith lined an RBI single and Max Muncy clobbered a two-run home run to right.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14, 2024: Dodgers starting pitcher James Paxton pitches.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14, 2024: San Diego Padres outfielder Jurickson Profar (10) hits.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14, 2024: Los Angeles Dodgers third base Max Muncy.

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Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux tags out San Diego's Ha-Seong Kim on a stolen-base attempt.

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Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani stands in the dugout during a rain delay before Sunday's game.

1. Dodgers starting pitcher James Paxton delivers against the Padres on Sunday. 2. San Diego’s Jurickson Profar hits a three-run double in the seventh innning. 3. Max Muncy runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run for the Dodgers in the fourth inning. 4. Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux tags out San Diego’s Ha-Seong Kim on a stolen-base attempt. 5. Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani stands in the dugout during a rain delay before Sunday’s game. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

So far this season, those have been the rallies that typically cancel out the Dodgers’ mistakes. The team will falter on the mound, or in the field, or in a key situational at-bat from the bottom of the lineup — in Roberts’ estimation, the club has played only three or four “complete” games in this opening month — but then their star players will bail them out with a swift, momentum-shifting response.

“We’re still winning,” Roberts said, “more than we’re losing.”

Only, against the Padres (9-9) on Sunday, the team’s pitching staff couldn’t get out of its own way.

In the top of the sixth, Paxton was pulled after walking his final two batters of the game. His eight walks were the most of his 11-year career, and left him with 14 free passes through only three starts this season.

“I made some pitches when I needed to, got out of some big spots [early in the game],” Paxton said. “But you’re not going to get away with walking eight guys very often. … You’re not getting into a flow. You’re just battling.”

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Reliever Ryan Brasier didn’t help either. He walked his first batter after entering in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs in the inning.

The Padres then tied the score at 3-3, scoring on a routine double play and two-out infield single from Jackson Merrill, who reached safely after Mookie Betts made a diving stop of his ground ball up the middle but fired an errant throw to first base.

“You’re sort of trying to thread a needle every inning, and trying to play perfect baseball or make a perfect pitch or have the ball hit at the right person in the right spot,” Roberts said of the added difficulties of walking so many batters. “You’re playing with fire. You just can’t play that game.”

San Diego's Xander Bogaerts, right, and Fernando Tatis Jr., center, congratulate Jake Cronenworth.
San Diego’s Xander Bogaerts, right, and Fernando Tatis Jr., center, congratulate Jake Cronenworth as he crosses the plate on a three-run double hit by Jurickson Profar in the seventh inning Sunday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Without top leverage relievers Evan Phillips and Daniel Hudson, who were both off Sunday after pitching consecutive days, the Dodgers’ lack of late-game options only compounded their problems finding the plate.

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In the seventh inning, the recently recalled Feyereisen loaded the bases on two walks and a single — then gave up a bases-clearing, go-ahead three-run double to Jurickson Profar, who was greeted with a smattering of boos after his heated exchange with catcher Will Smith the night before.

In the eighth and ninth, left-handers Alex Vesia and Nick Ramirez combined for three more bases on balls, giving the Dodgers their fourth-most walks in a game in franchise history.

“It was a whole collective effort tonight, as far as the walks,” Roberts said flatly. “We just don’t do that as a staff. So it’s very alarming tonight to watch what we watched.”

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