SAN FRANCISCO — How would Nathan Eovaldi respond to facing the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park?
"If he's going to be any good, he's going to have to pitch here in a lot of big situations," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm kind of looking forward to seeing how he handles it."
Mattingly saw, all right. What he saw was a 22-year-old rookie wilt under the weight of a pennant race and a ballpark packed with fans wearing orange and black.
With Eovaldi giving up eight runs in five innings in what was the worst start of his brief major league career, the Dodgers crashed to an 8-0 defeat to the second-place Giants on Monday night. The Dodgers' lead in the National League West was reduced to two games, their smallest margin been since the season was two weeks old.
"It's tough," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "I remember my first time playing here. It's hostile."
Eovaldi, who replaced the sidelined Ted Lilly in the Dodgers rotation in late May, entered the game a victim of sorts. Though he had a 2.35 earned-run average through his previous start, he was winless, a reflection of his impoverished run support. In Eovaldi's first 301/3 innings this season, the Dodgers scored a total of three runs.
Run support was an issue Monday night, but not the issue.
Eovaldi was charged with four runs in the first inning and three runs in the second.
"Some unfortunate breaks," said Eovaldi, who denied he was affected by the magnitude of the event.
Melky Cabrera hit a bloop single off the end of his bat to put men on first base and second base in the first inning. Angel Pagan followed that by hitting a ball that bounced into first base, flipped over the head of Juan Rivera and rolled down the right-field line for a run-scoring double.
"After that," Ellis said, "they made us pay."
The next batter, Pablo Sandoval, doubled to drive in Cabrera and Pagan. Sandoval scored on a single by backup catcher Hector Sanchez, who started in place of likely All-Star Buster Posey.
Posey was given a day off to rest his left ankle, which was fractured in a plate collision last year.
The Giants continued to pile on runs in the second inning, which started with Eovaldi walking Barry Zito, the opposing pitcher. After the Giants' third run that inning, the result of a sacrifice fly by Sandoval, Eovaldi's outing appeared to be over.
Jamey Wright started warming up in the bullpen.
But Eovaldi was not only allowed to finish the inning, he was sent to the plate with a bat in his hands to lead off the third inning for the Dodgers.
Asked if he considered hitting for Eovaldi at that point, Mattingly replied, "First game of the series, try to get seven innings out of my bullpen? Doesn't make much sense to me."
Eovaldi retired the side in the third and fourth innings, only to serve up two doubles in the fifth inning that increased the deficit to 8-0.
Ellis was confident Eovaldi would recover from the beating he took.
"He's definitely got the composure and make-up to put this behind him," Ellis said.
The Dodgers raised the proverbial white flag in the middle of the sixth inning, removing Andre Ethier from the game and inserting James Loney, a career .071 hitter against Zito.
"We're not the kind of club that's built to come back from eight back," Mattingly said.
Zito ended his losing streak at three games, limiting the Dodgers to three hits and three walks over seven innings.