The Braves can’t get to Phoenix soon enough, because not-so-sunny Los Angeles has been anything but a destination spot.
For the third consecutive night, under an unusually gloomier Southern California sky, the Braves just couldn’t compete with the reigning two-time National League champions. They lost Wednesday’s series finale, 9-4, getting swept and outscored 23-7 in the process.
“It just wasn’t a good series,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “They pretty much just beat us. It’s not ideal, but we’re still 3-3 on the trip and hopefully we can salvage this thing in Arizona.”
Now 6-21 at Dodger Stadium since 2013, the Braves dipped back below .500 (18-19). It’s early enough to withhold apprehensions about their subpar start, but the consistent crestfallen efforts against the Dodgers are justifiably concerning.
The Dodgers are the NL’s measuring stick. They’re gunning for their seventh consecutive NL West title and third-straight NL pennant. They eliminated the Braves in four games last October. For the Braves to lose this particular series wasn’t shocking; the manner in which it unfolded was undoubtedly disappointing.
“They reminded us pretty nicely this series about how good they are,” Freeman said. “They beat us this series. Hopefully when they come to our park we’ll be playing a little bit better.”
A recurring theme in the series was the Braves falling into an early deficit. It happened again Wednesday, with Kike Hernandez’s second-inning shot off Mike Foltynewicz putting the Dodgers up 2-0.
Foltynewicz hasn’t resembled his All-Star form since returning from the injured list (formerly the disabled list). He’s allowed 15 runs (11 earned) in three starts, walking six and striking out 10. The Dodgers tagged him for five runs, including a pair of homers from Hernandez and Max Muncy.
After missing almost his entire spring with bone spurs in his throwing elbow, Foltynewicz made four rehab starts in Triple-A before rejoining the rotation. Manager Brian Snitker was encouraged by his fastball and slider Wednesday, and Foltynewicz feels he’s making progress toward his old form.
“I thought his stuff took a big step forward today,” Snitker said. “I thought it was good for him to stay out there for six innings. His stuff was a marked improvement over last time, which is a good sign.”
Foltynewicz came out throwing strikes — 7-for-7 to get through the first — but was undone by mistakes to the Dodgers’ heavy hitters.
“They’re a patient team, but at the same time, when they get two strikes they shorten up and put the bat on the ball,” Foltynewicz said. “Which makes it really tough. … When you have a solid team like that that’s hitting the ball well, when you make a mistake it seems like it’s going over the fence. You run into hot teams like that every once in a while. It’s a long season, we just have to keep battling.”
Clayton Kershaw was effective most of the evening, though it wasn’t his best outing against a team he normally suffocates. The Braves plated four runs against the future Hall of Famer, but the southpaw retained his career-long undefeated streak against the Braves.
Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA, striking out 82 and walking only 14, in his 11 starts against the Braves. Even so, the visitors pulled within a run in the seventh, only to serve them right back.
A.J. Minter couldn’t hold the score at 5-4. Corey Seager and Alex Verdugo’s RBI-singles gave the Dodgers insurance. In the eighth, Justin Turner’s moonshot off Jacob Webb put it out of reach.
Mike Soroka will start the series opener in Arizona on Thursday. The Braves took three of four in Phoenix last September during a memorable 6-1 road trip that essentially secured their division title, but the Snakes swept them in their most recent meeting at SunTrust Park last month.