LOS ANGELES (AP) — For a team with championship aspirations, it’s all about the starting rotation. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a good one, and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ is struggling.
Alex Wood pitched into the eighth inning and benefited from Adrian Gonzalez’s first home run of the season, leading the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles’ starting pitchers are 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA through the team’s first nine games.
“We have a lot of competitive guys in here who have done well for a long time and we all get along great,” Wood said. “We’re going to try and continue to build on how we’ve started, and hopefully the wins will keep on coming.”
Rubby De La Rosa’s loss left the Diamondbacks’ starters at 0-6 with a 6.61 ERA through the team’s first nine games. It wasn’t all his fault, however. His teammates committed three errors behind him and got only one hit after Brandon Drury’s leadoff single in the fourth inning.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s getting better,” manager Chip Hale said. “Patrick Corbin pitched beautifully yesterday, and tonight I thought Rubby was a huge step up from what we’ve seen. But they can only control so much. They throw the pitches and get the balls hit to the right place, but we have to make the plays.”
Wood (1-1) allowed a run and five hits in seven-plus innings, struck out three and walked three in his 100th major league appearance and 69th start.
“I was a little erratic at first, but I settled down and made some pitches when I had to, ” said Wood, who picked off Jean Segura in the third inning after D-backs’ leadoff hitter followed Nick Ahmed’s homer with a single. “I was able to get some quick innings toward the back end, which was nice for sure.”
Longtime Dodgers nemesis Paul Goldschmidt said: “Wood just did a great job and didn’t make very many mistakes. … We weren’t able to get anything going.”
Kenley Jansen followed struggling right-hander Pedro Baez out of the bullpen and retired all five batters he faced for his third save in three chances.
“That’s something that Kenley and I talked about this winter — extending him and going one-plus and maybe using him in an unorthodox situation where you might not conventionally use a closer,” manager Dave Roberts said.
De La Rosa (0-2) was charged with three runs — two earned — and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander spent his first two big league seasons with the Dodgers and is 0-4 with a 9.67 ERA in five career starts against them.
Los Angeles snapped a 1-1 tie in the fifth, scoring two runs with the help of some sloppy defense by Arizona.
The Dodgers had runners at the corners with one out when shortstop Ahmed fielded Chase Utley’s grounder in the hole and tried to start a double play. But his wide throw struck the oncoming runner, Joc Pederson, and ricocheted into the outfield as Howie Kendrick scored.
The next batter was Corey Seager, who hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double-play grounder to second baseman Segura. But Goldschmidt juggled Ahmed’s relay throw at first base as Seager crossed the bag, allowing Pederson to score.
“I just dropped the ball. Unfortunately it cost us a run and possibly the game. So it was disappointing,” Goldschmidt said. “They didn’t make any mistakes on defense and we made a couple. That was the difference.”
Ahmed, batting ninth in the order behind De La Rosa, opened the scoring in the third when he drove Wood’s 1-1 pitch into the pavilion seats in left-center.
Gonzalez, who homered five times in his first three games last season, got his first in his ninth game and 34th at-bat of 2016. He tied it in the fourth on a 3-2 pitch from De La Rosa.
PITCHING … AND BATTING EIGHTH …
This was the seventh time in Arizona’s first nine games that Hale batted his starting pitcher eighth — something Diamondbacks executive Tony La Russa did on numerous occasions while he was managing the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Tony’s had some influence in that,” Hale said. “We talked a lot about it when I first got the job. I was interested to hear why he did it. He really did it out of desperation when they weren’t hitting at all, and he just wanted to switch it up.”
Hale’s motive, however, is to keep shortstop Ahmed in the ninth spot to give the D-backs something akin to back-to-back leadoff hitters — and essentially make No. 3 hitter and home run threat Paul Goldschmidt a cleanup man.
“I like Nick hitting in that nine hole so that he doesn’t have to worry about having the pitcher hitting behind him, where he can’t run — because running is a big part of Nick’s game,” Hale said. “It’s come up both ways so far, where that eighth spot has come up in a big spot for RBIs — and it’s been a pitcher. So I’m going to go back and forth with it, depending a lot on our pitcher and whether he can handle the bat a little bit.”
Diamondbacks: LHP Robbie Ray (0-0) beat the Dodgers twice during a 12-day span last September, allowing no runs and five total hits over 11 innings in those outings while the D-backs scored 20 runs in his behalf.
Dodgers: RHP Ross Stripling (0-0) makes his second big league start, five days after throwing 7 1/3 innings of no-hit ball at San Francisco and settling for a no-decision. The bullpen squandered a 2-0 lead for Stripling, as Chris Hatcher gave up a tying two-run homer in the eighth by Trevor Brown and Joe Blanton surrendered a walkoff home run in the 10th to Brandon Crawford.
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