February 29, 2024

Two straight collapses, two straight years, too much to believe?

No, it’s happening. It’s really happening.

Debacle times two. Disaster squared.

Remember that first-round playoff wreck against the San Diego Padres last season? After a wretched Monday night at Chavez Ravine, these Dodgers are unbelievably careening toward the same inconceivable ditch.

A week after the end of another magical regular season, the incredible underachieving Dodgers are on the brink of another epic fail after suffering a second consecutive defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks in their best-of-five National League Division Series.

Two days after being blown out in the opener, they lost, 4-2, to fall behind two games-to-none with the next two games in Arizona and sordid history working against them.

Visiting teams that win the first two games in a five-game series are 28-3 in the series. Considering the Dodgers’ starting pitching is in tatters and their best hitters have disappeared, it is difficult to imagine them overcoming those odds.

While last year’s division series collapse against the San Diego Padres was legendary because the Padres finished 22 games behind them in the regular season, an unexpected series defeat this October would be nearly as bad.

This is, after all, the first postseason series in major league history where a team with a 200-plus run differential faced a team with a negative run differential.

This space figured the Dodgers would sweep the Diamondbacks in three games, but that was before Clayton Kershaw crumbled in the opener and rookie Bobby Miller followed that opening act by pitching nearly as poorly Monday night.

Miller lasted only 1 ⅔ innings, allowing three runs on four hits before surrendering the ball to the bullpen, which performed admirably but couldn’t overcome another wretched pressure performance by the offense.

In two games, top-of-the-order stars Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are a combined one for 13 with that one hit being an infield grounder.

Enough said.

The latest embarrassment ended just after the Dodgers’ Kolten Wong came to the plate with two out in the ninth amid the strains of, “Don’t worry about a thing…” wafting through the stadium speakers.

Worry, Dodgers fans. Worry a ton. Wong flew out and his teammates trudged through the back of the dugout as if in a trance.

This is bad. This being the ugliest of encores, it’s worse than bad.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks with pitcher Bobby Miller in the dugout.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks with Bobby Miller after he pulled the rookie pitcher in the second inning of Game 2 on Monday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Before the game, Max Muncy claimed that the Dodgers had already moved past a stunning Game 1 loss in which Kershaw only recorded one out in suffering through the worst outing of his career.

“Obviously it was a really bad game and it sucked and it wasn’t very fun being out there,” Muncy said. “But at the same time it doesn’t matter how many runs they score; it’s only one loss or one win. So for us it’s over. It’s a 0-0 game today.”

It didn’t seem that way. In collecting only six hits against five Diamondbacks pitchers while being unable to overcome a first-inning, three-run deficit, the Dodgers played as if still in shock.

One more loss — Game 3 is in Arizona on Wednesday — and they’ll really be in shock.

This one started, and essentially ended, with Miller, who came into the game with such high hopes, the 11-4 record, the 3.76 ERA, the 100-mph fastball.

The kid had become the ace, and the Dodgers were hoping he could pitch like it.

“I trust Bobby,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “I expect him to take down a lot of outs tonight and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

One problem. He is still a kid. He’s 24, and was pitching in his first postseason game.

“This is going to be his biggest challenge, his biggest test that he’s ever had,” said Roberts.

And, sure enough, painfully enough, Miller flunked, giving up three runs in the first inning and continuing to struggle before being removed with two out in the second.

The Diamondbacks led off the game with a walk, a bunt single, then a line drive single to load the bases. Christian Walker drove in a run with an RBI flyout, then the speedy Diamondbacks stole a run when Tommy Pham swiped second and kept them out of a double play to set up Gabriel Moreno’s RBI groundout.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. completed the first-inning scoring with an RBI single. By the time Miller returned to the dugout, he had already thrown 32 pitches and looked lost.

When he allowed two of the first four batters to reach base in the second, Roberts had seen enough and pulled him for Brusdar Graterol, who ended the inning cleanly.

Some might argue that Roberts pulled Miller too soon, considering he had just retired the dangerous Ketel Marte on a weak foul pop. And after all, it was Roberts who earlier warned of the danger in the pitching-thin Dodgers trying to win a championship relying mostly on the bullpen.

“You have to have a guy or guys that can take down outs,” Roberts said. “You just can’t survive ultimately to win 11 games in October by doing a bullpen every single game — it just can’t happen. It’s just not sustainable. You have to have a guy that can take down outs.”

But, really, this being a Game 2 that felt like a Game 7, what choice did Roberts have? He couldn’t risk Miller turning the game into a blowout like in Game 1.

Graterol answered the call, retiring the first six batters he faced, and the three Dodgers relievers that followed him allowed just one more run.

But the offense continually failed, putting runners on base in four of the last five innings but failing to score all but one of them.

The Dodgers need to be better. All of them. Soon. Now.

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