James Paxton gives up 12 hits and nine runs in Dodgers' blowout loss to Giants

The “opener” in what was supposed to be a “bullpen game” for the San Francisco Giants outlasted the Dodgers’ starter, which should provide a hint at how things went for the visiting team on a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park.

Dodgers left-hander James Paxton was pummeled for nine earned runs and 12 hits in four innings of an eventual 10-4 loss to the Giants, failing to give his team a chance to win and to provide much-needed length after eight relievers combined to throw eight innings in Saturday’s 14-7, 11-inning victory.

Meanwhile, reliever Spencer Bivens, a 30-year-old rookie who was expected to go two, maybe two-plus innings for the Giants, threw five one-run, four-hit innings with three strikeouts and no walks in his first big league start.

The right-hander, who was pitching independent-league ball in 2022, struck out Shohei Ohtani twice, punctuating his 60-pitch outing with a full windup and violent fist pump after whiffing the Dodgers slugger and National League home run leader with an 82-mph sweeper to end the fifth.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher James Paxton throws to a San Francisco Giants batter.
Dodgers pitcher James Paxton delivers in the first inning of a 10-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on Sunday. (Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

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Paxton had given up only two earned runs and seven hits in 18 innings of his previous three starts, but the Giants went 12 for 21 with six doubles and a home run against him Sunday. Ten of the 12 hits had exit velocities of 100 mph or more.

“They were just on the fastball today,” Paxton said. “We tried to go to some other things, but they were just all over it. Every time we went to it, they weren’t missing, and I was leaving the ball over the plate a little too much for them.”

Paxton gave up one run and two hits in the first inning, two runs and four hits in the second, a run and two hits in the third and five runs and four hits in the fourth.

But the Dodgers' bullpen didn’t even begin to stir until Patrick Bailey lined a two-run double to left for a 7-0 lead in the fourth. Only when Matt Chapman followed with a two-run homer to left for a 9-0 lead did right-hander Michael Petersen begin to warm up.

Paxton struck out Luis Matos and got David Villar to ground out shortstop to end the fourth, pushing his pitch-count to 89, but manager Dave Roberts wouldn’t let the veteran go any longer.

“I was ready to go back out there for the fifth — I was ready to go as long as they needed me to go,” Paxton said. “But Doc told me I was done. I wanted to go deep into the game for these guys. It just wasn’t my day.”

Roberts appreciated Paxton’s willingness to continue despite an ugly line score that dropped him to 7-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 15 starts this season.

“It speaks to his character, his appreciation for his teammates and being a good teammate,” Roberts said. “But where his pitch count was at, I'm not in the business of trying to put a pitcher in harm's way.”

Petersen replaced Paxton to start the fifth and threw two scoreless one-hit innings, right-hander Yohan Ramirez added a scoreless seventh, and closer Evan Phillips, one of the few remaining relievers available, gave up a run in the eighth. Had the Dodgers not scored in the seventh, shortstop Miguel Rojas might have pitched the eighth.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani walks to the dugout after striking out.
Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani walks to the dugout after striking out against the San Francisco Giants in the fifth inning Sunday. (Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

“It’s a bad spot to be in, and it doesn’t happen very often with us,” Roberts said. “When you’re talking about the eighth inning and you’ve got your starting shortstop looming, that’s not a good sign. And to use your closer in the eighth inning in a minus game, that's brutal.”

There was one bright spot for the Dodgers. Chris Taylor hit a solo homer to center field off Bivens in the fifth and an RBI double to right-center off Landen Roupp in the seventh.

Taylor started at third base, a position the veteran utility man will be playing more of in the coming days, Roberts said.

Third base has been a problem spot since Max Muncy suffered a rib-cage strain on May 15, the slugger’s replacements — mostly Cavan Biggio and Kiké Hernández — batting .156 (21 for 135) with 40 strikeouts in 39 games since Muncy went on the injured list.

Taylor was one of baseball’s worst hitters for the first two months of the season, batting .095 (eight for 84) with a .305 OPS, one extra-base hit, eight RBIs, 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 36 games through June 6.

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But Taylor hit .318 (seven for 22) with a .921 OPS, one homer and a triple over his next nine games and had two hits and a walk in four at-bats Sunday to bump his season average to .154 and his OPS to .511.

“I think with Chris, I see better at-bats,” Roberts said. “I think his swing has leveled out more. It’s more conducive to line drives. He’s not under fastballs as much as he used to be. The swing-and-miss is down. So for me, he’s earning more opportunities, and I’m going to give him more runway at third base.”

What does “runway” mean to Roberts?

“I don’t know what that means,” Roberts said, “but he’s going to play more than he has in the last few weeks.”

Paxton’s start looked more like a crash-landing. He minimized damage after the Giants loaded the bases on two hits and a walk with no outs in the first, San Francisco scoring only once on Chapman’s sacrifice fly.

Paxton gave up two runs and four hits in the second, an inning that would have been even worse had the Giants not run into an out. Villar led off with a single to shallow right. Nick Ahmed singled to left, and Tyler Fitzgerald flared a hit to right.

San Francisco third base coach Matt Williams waved Villar home, but Villar, who would have scored easily, stopped at third. Ahmed raced around second, thinking Villar would score, and was thrown out at second by cut-off man Freddie Freeman.

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Jorge Soler, who set the tone for the day by smacking Paxton’s first pitch of the game, a 92-mph fastball, for a double that left his bat at 111 mph, lined an RBI double over the head of center fielder Andy Pages, who froze on the ball before breaking back, for a 2-0 lead. Austin Slater’s sacrifice fly to right made it 3-0.

The Giants pushed the lead to 4-0 in the third when Matos doubled to left-center and Villar lined an RBI double to right. Bailey and Chapman then capped the five-run fifth with their two-run hits.

“It’s extremely frustrating, not just for the bullpen but that I couldn’t get Pax through that,” said catcher Austin Barnes, who hit a two-run double to right in the ninth. “Obviously, he’s been throwing the ball pretty well. Giving up a nine-spot, it hurts. Didn’t give us a chance to win today, really. We were just behind the eight-ball.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.