Christian Walker frustrates Dodgers in series loss to Arizona: ‘He’s Babe Ruth against us’

Arizona's Christian Walker, right, is greeted at home plate by teammate Lourdes Gurriel Jr. after hitting a home run.
Arizona’s Christian Walker, right, is greeted at home plate by teammate Lourdes Gurriel Jr. after hitting a home run in the first inning of a 9-3 win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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The Dodgers dugout sat in quiet dejection.

Two rows behind it, a Dodgers fan rose to his feet and began bowing down his arms.

Rounding the bases before them was the club’s new No. 1 enemy, a decent MLB slugger who, during trips to Dodger Stadium in recent years, suddenly performs like a cross of Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth.

Once again, Christian Walker had the Dodgers’ number.

For a second straight night, he hit two home runs to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 9-3, rubber-match win at Chavez Ravine.


“Obviously,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sighed postgame, “he feels really comfortable in the box against us.”

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Entering this week, Walker already had a reputation as a Dodgers killer. In 87 previous games against the club, he’d hit 22 home runs and collected 50 RBIs. His numbers against franchise icon Clayton Kershaw were especially good, with a .294 career batting average off the future Hall of Famer.

“I got some thoughts,” Kershaw, who remains sidelined following offseason shoulder surgery, told reporters Thursday afternoon about how the team could neutralize Walker in the series finale. “For our guys, not for you.”

Whatever Kershaw was thinking, it apparently didn’t work.

Instead, after hitting one home run in Tuesday’s series-opener, then two more in Arizona’s rout of the Dodgers on Wednesday night, Walker continued his weeklong tear with another two-homer explosion Thursday, etching his name into recent Dodger Stadium history.

Arizona's Christian Walker rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Dodgers.
Arizona’s Christian Walker rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Dodgers on Thursday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Since 2002, Walker’s 19 home runs at the ballpark are tied for most by any visiting player, matching former Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt. Among visiting players with at least 100 plate appearances at the stadium in that span, Walker’s .783 slugging percentage is first, while his .341 batting average is second.


Both of Walker’s home runs Thursday came off rookie Dodgers starter Landon Knack.

In the first inning, he followed a Joc Pederson home run with a solo blast, hammering a two-strike fastball at the bottom of the zone. In the third inning, Walker launched a two-run shot deep to left field, opening up 4-0 Diamondbacks lead on a hanging changeup Knack left over the plate.

“We just don’t make good pitches against him,” Roberts said. “That’s just the bottom line.”

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The most telling moment of Walker’s Dodgers dominance might have come in the top of the fifth. With a runner on second, two outs and left-handed reliever Anthony Banda on the mound, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts raised four fingers from the dugout.

An intentional walk.

To a hitter that, in ballparks other than Dodger Stadium this year, was batting .257 with a .788 OPS.

“When we’re living it, it digs a little deeper,” Roberts said of the team’s frustrations against Walker, which were only amplified by sarcastic cheers from the crowd following the intentional walk.

“He’s Babe Ruth against us,” the manager added.

While Walker drew one more walk the rest of the night (he finished two for three on Thursday and eight for 13 in the series with five home runs and nine RBIs), his contributions were enough to key the Diamondbacks’ series-clinching win.

Dodgers starting pitcher Landon Knack sits alone in the dugout during the fourth inning Thursday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers scored three runs in the fourth inning on an RBI ground-out from Kiké Hernández and a two-run single from Austin Barnes.

But after a fielding flub by Freddie Freeman in the fifth helped the Diamondbacks restore their multi-run advantage, Arizona’s bullpen shut the door over the final five innings, while their lineup tacked on four insurance runs in the top of the ninth.

“We have shown how we’re gonna have to fight back,” outfielder Jason Heyward said of the team’s play over the last week, in which they’ve dropped back-to-back series losses for the first time since late May. “We’re gonna have to figure out ways to do that and weather the storm.”

Of bigger concern for the Dodgers on Thursday was Heyward, who exited after two innings because of left knee pain.

On Pederson’s home run ball in the first inning, Heyward injured his knee after leaping at the wall for a failed robbery attempt. Roberts said Heyward is unlikely to play Friday, and is scheduled to get an MRI.

Dodgers right fielder Jason Heyward can't reach a home-run ball hit by Arizona's Joc Pederson in the first inning.
Dodgers right fielder Jason Heyward can’t reach a home-run ball hit by Arizona’s Joc Pederson in the first inning of the Dodgers’ 9-3 loss Thursday. Heyward later left the game with knee pain.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“As soon as I landed, it felt like one of those trust falls, it happened fast,” Heyward said. “Put my feet down and I was like ‘All right, this doesn’t feel great’ … You just kind of have to wait and see [on the MRI].”

Heyward took only one at-bat Thursday, grounding out in the first, but also appeared shaken up after leaping for Pederson’s home run ball at the wall in right.

The veteran had been slumping of late, entering Thursday just three for 34 in his last 11 games.

Nonetheless, the veteran remained a key part of their outfield platoon, playing most days in right field given the Dodgers’ heavy dose of opposing right-handed pitchers.

Fans watch the Fourth of July fireworks show at Dodger Stadium following Thursday's game.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Any extended injury might only amplify the Dodgers’ growing need to bolster their lineup depth before the July 30 trade deadline.

The team’s sudden 2-4 slide — even when accounting for Walker’s dominance — has highlighted that dynamic enough on its own.

“We couldn’t do anything after that one big inning,” Roberts said, before evaluating his team’s last week bluntly: “It’s not pretty.”