Paxton struggles as Dodgers drop series opener to Reds

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
The Reds gathered eight of their nine runs via the home run as their timely power hitting helped them come back to sink the Dodgers.

Starter James Paxton worked his shakiest outing of the year while the Reds’ fifth-inning slam helped them hand the Dodgers a 9-6 loss in the series opener at Great American Ball Park.

Paxton tossed 95 pitches as he fought his way through 4.2 innings of work. He allowed five hits and struggled with his control, also walking four. The Reds jumped on him for two separate home runs as they made the most of their hits against the lefty. His five runs allowed was the most so far this year.

The loss was certainly not at the hands of the Los Angeles lineup, which gathered 11 hits throughout the game. A four-run second inning gave them their biggest burst of the afternoon. Will Smith and Teoscar Hernandez also chipped in with solo home runs in the fifth and ninth. However, a grand slam off the bat of Jonathan India for the Reds in the bottom of the fifth would put them up for good. The slam was India’s third hit of the night, and it capped off a six-run frame for Cincinnati.

Here are three takeaways:

Paxton fails to execute

Paxton could never seem to find a groove as the Reds provided some timely hitting to disrupt his momentum. His command was immediately an issue as he walked two of the first three batters to begin his start. Spencer Steer would then hit Cincinatti’s first home run of the game, a three-run shot that broke open the scoring.

After seeming to settle in throughout innings 2-4, he once again allowed some power hitting to burn him. Stuart Fairchild led off the home side of the fifth with a solo home run to close the Dodger lead to 5-4. Paxton then retired the next two batters before walking Spencer Steer and being pulled from the game. He was ultimately charged with five earned runs as his ERA rose from 2.84 to 3.49.

Things could have gone much smoother for the 35-year-old if he was able to manage his control more effectively. He has now walked four or more batters in four of his nine starts. His 28 walks this season are enough to lead the team by a wide margin. In every start where he has walked three or fewer batters, he has allowed three runs or less. Paxton will need to keep his walks to a minimum going forward if he wishes to keep his early season success alive.

India hits big slam

India, the Reds’ second baseman, entered Friday’s game riding an 0-16 skid at the plate. He broke out of it in a big way, propelling his team to victory. The 2021 NL Rookie of the Year would then take advantage of Dodger’s reliever Alex Vesia, who was forced into the game after Yohan Ramirez could not record an out. He hit, walked, and hit the three batters he saw to force in a run and load the bases for India.

India would smash a lead-taking grand slam to cap off a devastating inning for Los Angeles. Ramirez, who was acquired from the Mets earlier in the week, has struggled. Cincinnati managed to score five of their six runs in the frame all with two outs. The failure to get the big outs is what ultimately cost the Dodgers as India finished 3-3 at the plate. Ramirez fell to 0-2 as his ERA now stands at 7.71.

In total, the Reds finished with three big home runs and went 3-8 with runners in scoring position. They managed to outproduce the Dodgers despite having five less hits. Los Angeles was flat-out sloppy on the mound and needs to be much more engaged for the rest of the series if they want to come away on the right side of the scoreboard.

Dodger offense shows life

After scoring just three runs in the final two games of the previous series against the Diamondbacks, it was good to see the Dodgers’ lineup putting in work. Despite the loss, they put together a well-rounded effort and kept the team in the game for as long as they could. A four-run second inning saw Chris Taylor and Mookie Betts each provide RBI doubles. Shohei Ohtani (0-5) also brought in a run on a groundout.

Will Smith used a fifth-inning home run to contribute to the scoring and nearly blasted a second in the seventh inning. He was robbed by Stuart Fairchild, who made a leaping catch to rob Smith of the homer. Teoscar Hernandez had an excellent day at the plate, reaching base all four times (2-2, 2 BB) and hitting a home run in the ninth inning. The 31-year-old now has 12 home runs, trailing only Shohei Ohtani for the team lead.

Manager Dave Roberts spoke postgame about his team’s day at the plate. “The offense was good,” he said. “[Stuart] Fairchild out there in center field, took some extra bases away from Mookie, from Will, robbed a homer. We had some really good at-bats…offensively I thought we played a heck of a ballgame.”

The Dodgers and Reds will meet at 4:15 on Saturday afternoon for the second game of the series. Walker Buehler (1-1, 4.05 ERA) will face Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene (2-2, 3.22 ERA). Buehler is coming off his best start of the season, while Greene has won his last two decisions.