The Miami Marlins didn’t spend much time Wednesday thinking a bounceback against the Los Angeles Dodgers was really feasible. After they lost by 14 runs Tuesday, the Marlins quickly fell into another three-run hole in the top of the first inning and then they had to face Clayton Kershaw.
On the mound, the Dodgers once again pummeled Miami with home runs. At the plate, the Marlins floundered against Kershaw, who struck out the first seven batters he faced. The path to a 9-1 loss Thursday was charted in the opening inning two or three innings in Miami.
“The games with LA, in particular, I think they’re good because they kind of let you know where you’re at because they’re probably one of three teams, maybe four, that legitimately if they don’t win the World Series they’re going to look at it like it’s been a bad year,” Mattingly said. “They kind of let you know where you’re at. Their starters have pretty much let us know where we’re at. Their hitters let you know where you’re at.”
Kershaw dominated for seven shutout innings and flirted with history first in the third inning, then again into the second half of the game. Los Angeles’ offense belted four more home runs, including two by a rookie hitting his first two career homers.
The gulf between the the Marlins and Dodgers is wide. This is no secret. Miami has the worst record in the National League. Los Angeles is tied for the best record in the Majors. The disparity was evident Tuesday when the Dodgers poured 15 runs on the Marlins, and just as evident Wednesday when Kershaw and the Dodgers’ offense combined to blow away Miami in front of 8,810 at Marlins Park.
Kershaw came just one strikeout short of tying the record for consecutive strikeouts to start a game and took a perfect game into the fifth inning. Los Angeles homered twice in the first inning and got two more from rookie first baseman Edwin Rios, a former FIU Panther, in the middle innings to turn the Dodgers’ early lead into a lopsided edge.
With more than a month left in the regular season, Los Angeles’ latest win has its magic number to clinch the NL West down to 22. Miami, which is more than 25 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and more than 18 games back of the second wild card spot, had its elimination number drop to 17 with their 10th loss in 12 games.
The Dodgers’ current position is the ultimate dream for any MLB team and, right now, the Marlins are as far from it as anyone in the NL. Miami has a long way to go and Mattingly hopes his team, and particularly the rookies and second-year players, can actually take long-term lessons away from the blowouts.
“You always try to pick up stuff from the guys that are doing really well, whether it’s offensively, pitching, defensively — whatever it happens to be — and that’s a team that is doing very well,” said outfielder Curtis Granderson, whose pinch-hit homer in the ninth accounted for the Marlins’ only run. ”There’s definitely something you can take away from it.”
Before Kershaw could even begin his first run at history, Los Angeles opened up a 3-0 lead. Elieser Hernandez started off with two strikeouts of his own before giving up a solo home run to third baseman Justin Turner. Down 1-0 with two outs, Miami put on a shift against Cody Bellinger and the MVP contender dropped out a bunt single to the open side of the diamond. Shortstop Corey Seager followed it with another home run — the Dodgers’ eighth in their last six innings — to take a 3-0 lead against Hernandez (2-5) and the Marlins.
“All the mistakes I made,” Hernandez said, “I paid.”
The pitcher, who gave up six earned runs on eight hits and four home runs with seven strikeouts in his six innings, finally got out of the inning when utility player Jon Berti ran from his shortstop position into left field to make a diving catch. Kershaw (12-2) could go to work.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner looked uncharacteristically human for the first few months of the season before he rounded into his usual All-Star form beginning in July. He began last with a 3.23 ERA and, after Wednesday, he has allowed only seven earned runs in 47 innings since.
He started one of his most dominant outings of the season with five straight swinging strikeouts, all with breaking balls, before he froze Ramirez with a fastball at the bottom of the zone for his sixth. He beat catcher Jorge Alfaro with another slider to start the third and come within one strikeout of another spot in the record books.
Lewis Brinson’s groundout finally ended one quest for history, but the left-handed pitcher kept another alive until the fifth inning. Kershaw ended the third inning with his eighth strikeout, then added a ninth as part of a 1-2-3 fourth inning. He got two more quick outs to start the fifth before Ramirez finally squared up a slider and lined it 99 mph out to right field. The outfielder was Miami’s first baserunner of the game after the first 14 all went down against the lefty.
“Their starters have really throttled us,” Mattingly said. “These guys have pretty much throttled us.”
Only one other for Miami would follow Ramirez’s lead against Kershaw when slugger Garrett Cooper legged out an infield single in the seventh. Kershaw left after seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and only two hits allowed and by then his team had saddled him with a 9-0 lead.
Two games from a three-game series are finished. The best team in the NL is outscoring the worst 24-2.