Ice-cold bats put powerful Dodgers on brink of early winter

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Frigid wind gusts roared in from center field well before sundown and continued through the late innings Monday night. They buffeted the foul poles and turned normally pleasant Chavez Ravine into a whirling cauldron that felt and played more like the San Francisco waterfront, or even old Candlestick Park.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were at home, but they were out of their element — and they played accordingly in a loss that sent the defending World Series champions to the brink of elimination.

The Dodgers managed just five singles in a 1-0 loss to the Giants on Monday night in Game 3 of the NL division series. The formidable lineup that led the NL with 830 runs and hit 237 homers in the regular season has been shut out twice in three games against San Francisco — and in the crucible of a best-of-five series, that's an enormous problem.

For the second time in the series, the Dodgers were incapable of getting the timely, dramatic hits that have characterized so much of their postseason success while winning three NL pennants and one ring over the previous four seasons. Even going against unassuming former Dodgers starter Alex Wood, whose fastest pitch didn't top 90 mph, was too much for this punchless powerhouse in blue.

Gavin Lux thought he'd broken through with two outs in the ninth, lifting his arm in celebration after hitting a 106.9-mph drive to left-center. Statcast estimated the hit would be a homer 69% of the time, with an .890 expected batting average. Instead, it barely reached the warning track and fell into Steven Duggar's glove.

Los Angeles hit 30 homers and scored 101 runs on its way to the World Series title last season, but a Game 3 lineup with six returning position players from 2020 was no better than the group that got blanked in Game 1 in San Francisco.

The Dodgers churned out nine runs while winning Game 2, but they managed just three singles in the first six innings of Game 3, including two from 41-year-old first baseman Albert Pujols.

The Giants had a great deal to do with Los Angeles’ offensive ineptitude, particularly in the seventh inning. Two Dodgers reached base with one out, but former Dodgers reliever Jake McGee came on and struck out Austin Barnes.

Mookie Betts then stung a 100.4-mph line drive toward left — and shortstop Brandon Crawford, a UCLA product, snared it with a perfectly timed leap.

Betts also was robbed of a hit by Crawford earlier when the shortstop snared a sharply hit grounder for the final out of the fifth.

Los Angeles went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position, failing to come through in the few times when it mattered. Regular postseason hero Max Muncy is injured and not playing in this series, but plenty of past Dodgers postseason heroes — Justin Turner, World Series MVP Corey Seager, Chris Taylor and Betts — have all run low on playoff magic.

The Dodgers went quickly in the ninth with a 1-2-3 exit for Taylor, AJ Pollock and Lux.

LA’s power outage wasn’t caused by the unusually strong winds that bent the palm trees and sent the temperature plummeting, but it has put the Dodgers in a tight spot heading into Game 4 on Tuesday night.

One particularly unruly gust shoved Max Scherzer partly off the mound in the first inning, but the Dodgers still got everything they expected and demanded from the veteran right-hander, who threw seven innings of three-hit ball with 10 strikeouts.

Yet LA's big trade deadline acquisition finally took his very first loss in a Dodgers uniform thanks to his teammates' inability to hit Wood and the Giants' bullpen.

The 37-year-old Scherzer had his fifth career 10-strikeout postseason game, and he became the first pitcher in major league history to accomplish the feat for three different teams.

But unless Los Angeles rallies for two wins over San Francisco, Scherzer will head to unrestricted free agency this winter — alongside Clayton Kershaw, Taylor and closer Kenley Jansen, among others — with disappointment all around after the Dodgers' gamble to land the ace and Trea Turner failed to generate postseason success.

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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

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