They’d already done it to Max Fried and Yu Darvish, Logan Webb and Carlos Rodón.
On Tuesday night, they added Corbin Burnes to the list.
Facing this year’s juggernaut of a Dodgers lineup can be hard enough. Doing it multiple times has seemingly bordered on the impossible.
Burnes learned the hard way Tuesday, becoming the latest pitcher not only to regress in his second start against the Dodgers, but to do so mightily, giving up seven runs in 3 ⅔ innings in the Dodgers’ 10-1 blowout win in front of a sold-out home crowd.
“He’s still one of the game’s best,” manager Dave Roberts said. “To get to Corbin like we did tonight shows how good we can be against the game’s best.”
Five days earlier, Burnes helped the Brewers beat the Dodgers in Milwaukee. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner shut them out through five innings and, despite giving up three runs in the sixth, still limited the damage enough to earn the win.
Tuesday was a different story.
In the first inning, the right-hander gave up a leadoff double to Mookie Betts and an RBI single to Freddie Freeman.
He walked two batters in the second inning before serving a down-the-middle cutter to Trayce Thompson, who promptly deposited it into the left-field pavilion for a three-run homer.
And after a scoreless third, Burnes’ night unraveled for good in the fourth.
Chris Taylor reached on an infield single and stole second. Thompson drove him in with a base hit to left. Betts swung through strike three for what should have been the final out, but was able to reach first safely after a wild pitch bounced away from the catcher.
Then, Trea Turner delivered the knockout blow, landing an RBI single in center to make it 6-0.
Even after Burnes exited, he was charged with one more run, courtesy of another Freeman RBI single against reliever Brent Suter.
The seven runs marked the most Burnes had given up since 2019.
He also became the second star pitcher this week to fail to complete four innings at Dodger Stadium, after Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara also managed just 3 ⅔ innings in his worst start of the season Sunday.
“I’ve talked a lot this year about, the team offense has been considerably better over the last two and a half, three months,” Roberts said. “It’s just a compilation of good information, good presentation and good execution from everyone.”
Tuesday further emphasized one of the most impressive trends for Dodgers (85-37) this season, too.
So far this year, the team has faced 24 different opposing starting pitchers multiple times.
In their first meeting with the Dodgers, those pitchers have a combined 4.11 ERA, and the Dodgers are just 15-9 in those games.
But in every subsequent outing — such as Burnes’ on Tuesday, which came just five days after he’d faced the Dodgers in Milwaukee — those pitchers have a combined 7.55 ERA, leading to a 26-7 mark for the Dodgers.
“[When] you know a guy, you know what they’re gonna bring, you know their strengths and how they’re gonna attack you,” said Roberts, whose own starter, Tony Gonsolin, avoided such a pitfall by giving up just one run in five innings his second time facing the Brewers (65-57) in a week.
“I think for us,” Roberts continued, “that sometimes bodes better.”
His first baseman agreed.
Freeman said the Dodgers took a more aggressive approach against Burnes on Tuesday than they did last week — something that was emphasized in their daily pregame hitters’ meeting, and reinforced as clips of Burnes’ prior start against them flashed across the batting cage TVs.
Indeed, Betts’ leadoff double came on the second pitch of his at-bat. Freeman’s RBI knock came on the third.
Thompson was more patient on his home run — the highlight of a two-for-three, four-RBI night that spearheaded the Dodgers offense — hitting it in a 2-and-2 count.
But then he and Turner went back on the attack in the fourth, with Thompson scorching a single on a 3-and-0 pitch and Turner knocking Burnes by dumping a first-pitch curveball into center field.
“That was our plan today, to attack and attack early,” Freeman said. “And it worked out for us.”
Certainly, most teams perform better against pitchers the more they see them. Hitters become more familiar with an opponent’s approach, arm angles and movement of pitches. They have experience to draw upon, past failures to learn from.
But the Dodgers this year are almost making it look like a science.
Fried pitched seven shutout innings in his first meeting with the Dodgers this year, then gave up two runs in 6 ⅔ innings the next. Darvish spun six scoreless in his first matchup this year, but has given up seven runs in 12 innings over two starts since.
Rodón managed two good starts against the Dodgers (six innings, two runs and six innings, no runs) before they scored five in just five innings against him last time.
Merrill Kelly is perhaps the most glaring example, going from a six-inning, three-run performance in April to a two-inning, eight-run clunker three weeks later.
“I always think I’m a little more comfortable the second time I face a guy,” said Chris Taylor, one of four Dodgers on Tuesday who had multiple hits. “You just kind of know what to expect.”
Doing it against Burnes, in the span of less than a week no less, might be the most promising sign.
It’s the type of thing the Dodgers will need to do in October, when they could face opposing aces twice in a playoff series — the kind of game-to-game growth that might be necessary in their pursuit of a championship.
“Those are the guys we’re gonna be facing if you’re gonna want to win a World Series,” Freeman said. “It was a good test for us.”
And, as they’ve been doing all season, one the Dodgers passed with flying colors once again.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.