LOS ANGELES — Of all the chants that could have emanated from the Dodger Stadium stands during the eighth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS, “We want Austin!” was not exactly the most likely.
But after Los Angeles catcher Yasmani Grandal committed his third passed ball of the series Monday night, the voices of exasperated fans pleading for his unsung backup, Austin Barnes, improbably echoed through Chavez Ravine.
And when Grandal struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 4-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, he only heard boos.
The fans’ vocal disappointment was mostly a measure of their dissatisfaction with Grandal, who is having a miserable post-season in every aspect. The veteran catcher dropped to 3 for 22 in the playoffs with 10 strikeouts despite a popup that turned into a ground-rule double in Game 3.
But the unlikely chant for his backup also reflected the big-budget Dodgers’ desperate frustration with their own inability to seize the important moments near the halfway point of this series.
Game 3 was full of those missed moments, and it pushed the defending NL champions halfway to elimination.
Game 4 is Tuesday night.
Dodger Stadium, normally a cauldron of excitement in October, was just as quiet as the Los Angeles bats facing Jhoulys Chacin and the Brewers’ deep bullpen — except when it was booing the Dodgers. LA went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, struck out 14 times and managed just five hits.
The fans are thoroughly dissatisfied with Grandal, who is having a post-season to forget — on the precipice of free agency, no less. The veteran made two more defensive miscues after committing two errors and two passed balls in Game 1.
Grandal’s passed ball in the eighth drew the fans’ greatest ire, even though happened after the Dodgers already trailed by four runs. Grandal has tied the big-league record for the most passed balls in a playoff series, sharing it with four other catchers.
Immediately after Game 3, manager Dave Roberts said Barnes will start Game 4.
“(Grandal) had a tough night,” Roberts said.
Barnes was a surprise playoff contributor for the Dodgers last October, supplanting Grandal in the lineup during LA’s run to the World Series before Grandal reclaimed his job this season. Barnes went 0 for 3 and drew a bases-loaded walk in Game 2 in Milwaukee.
Along with his batting woes and his latest passed ball, Grandal also failed to control a wild pitch by Walker Buehler in the sixth inning, allowing Travis Shaw to score the Brewers’ second run from third base.
Shaw was only on third because centre fielder Cody Bellinger appeared to misjudge Shaw’s long fly, allowing it to carom off the wall for a triple that probably could have been the third out of the inning.
And Buehler was still in the game because Roberts attempted to get some extra innings from his young starter instead of employing his customary quick hook.
None of those mistakes and debatable decisions was individually decisive. Add them all together, along with the Dodgers’ inability to seize any moments of their own, and LA is down 2-1.
Roberts’ decision to trust Buehler ultimately wasn’t decisive, since the Brewers got the only run they needed in the first inning.
Buehler largely pitched well during seven innings of five-hit ball, but he yielded three runs in his final two innings — including a two-run homer in the seventh to the short porch in right by Orlando Arcia, who hit three homers in the entire regular season followed by three more in the playoffs.
The Dodgers finally showed life in the ninth, getting two hits and Yasiel Puig’s one-out walk to load the bases. But Grandal and pinch-hitter Brian Dozier struck out, and the Dodger Stadium crowd made almost no noise.