Walker continues his Dodger Stadium dominance

2 years ago

LOS ANGELES — If every D-backs hitter thrived as much as Christian Walker at Dodger Stadium, they’d have huge offensive numbers in the hostile environment of Chavez Ravine. The first baseman rakes nearly every time he shows up here.

That was again the case Monday night, when Walker slugged a solo homer off Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin and was a bright spot in Arizona’s lineup. Walker has a .322 career average (19-for-59) and seven home runs at Dodger Stadium, where 42,650 people packed the seats for Arizona’s 5-4 loss on Monday.

“When the crowd gets going, that energy’s real,” Walker said. “It’s not, like, intimidating or daunting or anything like that. I like it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s fun. For me, that’s what playing in the big leagues is all about — play in front of a good crowd and play against a really good team.”

While Walker may fare well in Los Angeles, the D-backs have not in recent years. With the defeat in its first game at Dodger Stadium in 2022, Arizona is 3-20 at the park since the start of the ‘19 season. Since the beginning of ‘20, the team’s lone victory here was a 5-2 win on July 9, 2021.

This time, Walker’s homer led off the second inning and got the D-backs off to the right start. They took a 2-0 lead on Josh Rojas’ sacrifice fly in the fourth, and left-hander Madison Bumgarner was dealing on the mound.

Then, the fifth inning happened. After escaping a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth, Bumgarner allowed three runs the next frame. Two scored on a Mookie Betts single to center field, where Alek Thomas let the ball past him for an error. Another run came in on Freddie Freeman’s double the next at-bat.

“It’s a good-hitting team,” Bumgarner said. “You’ve got to be sharp when you’re facing those guys.”

Chris Taylor’s two-run homer in the sixth pushed Los Angeles’ lead to 5-2, making it so David Peralta’s two-run homer for Arizona in the ninth wasn’t enough to turn the tides. And when Thomas grounded out to end the game, the D-backs had their sixth consecutive Dodger Stadium loss.

Considering the Dodgers won the World Series in 2020 and had 106 victories in ‘21 — while the D-backs went 77-145 over the previous two seasons — it’s not a total surprise that Los Angeles has had the advantage in these matchups. Still, Arizona has fared better when the National League West rivals have met at Chase Field, where it took two of three games earlier this year from April 25-27.

“We don’t necessarily feel overmatched or anything like that. I don’t really have an answer for you, to be honest,” Walker said of the struggles in L.A. “I think it’s just one of those things. Coming into this series, coming off a good series last time with them, just trying to carry that over. As far as the record over the last few years, I think it’s just one of those things — it’s a baseball thing.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has frequently talked about not wanting his team to play up or down to its competition. He wants the club to focus on the things it can control that can lead to winning baseball — nothing more.

And that’s how Lovullo wants Arizona to get through to the other side of this Chavez Ravine drought.

“We’re aware of it. That’s a good baseball team, right? We respect that,” Lovullo said. “The only way for me to look at it is just be ready to play today, not worry about anything else that’s happened in the past or what may happen tomorrow.”

However, what tomorrow (Tuesday) will bring is a rare Dodger Stadium doubleheader. It’ll be the first time the D-backs and Dodgers have played a twin bill in their series history.

It could either be the continuation of Arizona’s tough times in Los Angeles, or an opportunity for it to flip the script and even take the lead in this four-game series. Walker is ready to do his part to try to help the D-backs send Dodgers fans home sad.

“You know coming in that we’re going to have to play some good baseball,” Walker said. “And that’s exciting.”

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