But for the first time in a while, it certainly looked mortal, as the team settled for a four-game split against a potential playoff foe after a 5-3 defeat at American Family Field on Thursday.
“It’s gonna happen,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve swung the bats well. But the old adage — good pitching beats good hitting.”
Entering this week’s series, the Dodgers’ hitting had been more than just good.
Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers were averaging almost 6½ runs per game.
They were batting .283 as a team.
They looked more dangerous than the two-story tall left-field slide at the Brewers home ballpark — which left Dodgers radio reporter David Vassegh with a broken wrist and six cracked ribs in an accident Wednesday that went viral online (and in the team’s clubhouse) after he lightheartedly shared the video on the team’s television broadcast.
Against a Brewers team with one of the better pitching staffs in the majors, however, the Dodgers’ offensive fireworks weren’t as explosive.
They scored only 13 runs in four games. They belted seven homers but went five for 26 with runners in scoring position.
They scored four runs apiece in the first two games — which would have both been wins if not for Craig Kimbrel’s blown save Tuesday — but then were limited to only two by Eric Lauer on Wednesday.
And in Thursday’s finale, they faced their toughest task, squaring off with reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes on an afternoon right fielder Mookie Betts had a scheduled day off.
“It’s never fun to face those guys,” Roberts said.
For the first five innings, it showed, with Burnes keeping the Dodgers off the board while his offense belted three home runs off Dodgers starter Andrew Heaney.
Heaney struck out 10 batters, but he also gave up a solo homer to Andrew McCutchen in the first, then a two-run homer to him in the third.
In the fifth inning, Heaney finally struck out McCutchen for what should have been the final out in the inning — only to watch the ball get past catcher Will Smith to keep the inning alive.
Moments later, Hunter Renfroe homered to knock Heaney out of the game.
“It sucks,” Smith said. “You give first base on a freebie, you gotta get the next guy out. And we didn’t do that.”
Added Heaney: “Stuff happens, you just have to make pitches.”
Up 5-0 at that point, it looked as if Burnes and the Brewers (53-54) would coast from there.
Instead, the Dodgers (81-36) responded the next half-inning, getting on the board with an RBI single from Smith. They pulled to within two on a two-run triple from Gavin Lux.
Burnes’ day ended there.
“You look at it from the beginning, you thought he was gonna go seven innings,” Roberts said. “For us to not let him get through six was a win in itself. … He’s a guy that you have to beat in October. So I thought we competed for 27 outs.”
The final 10 of those outs, however, came without any more runs.
Lux was stranded at third by reliever Brad Boxberger to end the sixth. Side-arm left-hander Taylor Rogers and veteran right-hander Matt Bush navigated the seventh and eighth, respectively.
In the ninth, All-Star closer Devin Williams put an exclamation put on the Brewers’ win, striking out the side in order to snap the Dodgers’ five-series winning streak.
“They do a great job of preventing runs and every ball game was essentially pretty close, so I’m not going to overanalyze how many runs we scored this series,” Roberts said. “If they’re gonna go out there and make pitches and catch the baseball, it’s tough. But I still think that the quality of at-bat one through nine is there.”
Cody Bellinger returns to lineup
After getting a couple of days off to “reset,” in Roberts’ words, Cody Bellinger returned to the lineup Thursday, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
“We’ve had really good conversations over the last couple days,” Roberts said pregame of Bellinger, who is batting .204 this season.
“I’m not really looking for performance as far as the process,” Roberts continued. “I just want to see that his head is good, he’s got clarity, he’s taking good at-bats, he has good swings.”
Roberts said part of the reason for the reset was because he could sense Bellinger was getting frustrated amid a recent slump — evidenced when Bellinger didn’t fully hustle out a grounder to first in his last at-bat Monday.
“What that did show me is that he reached a point of frustration, that’s telling to me,” Roberts said. “Because it’s not intentional. It’s not disrespectful. It’s just he’s frustrated because he wants to do so well. So that tells me as a manager that he needs a blow.”