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USC DE Nick Figueroa returns vs. Oregon State

LOS ANGELES — USC defensive end Nick Figueroa returned after missing last week’s win over Washington State with an AC sprain that kept out of the second halves of the first two games of the season. In the first quarter, he was used only in certain situations, like third-and-short

Offensive tackle Jalen McKenzie also dressed for the game after leaving Tuesday’s practice due to dehydration. But McKenzie, who played the entire second half of last weekend’s game against Washington State at right tackle, did not start against Oregon State as redshirt freshman Jonah Monheim resumed his starting duties.

Monheim made the most of the opportunity, delivering a sealing block for a screen pass to Gary Bryant Jr. on first-and-goal from the Oregon State 7. Monheim’s block gave Bryant the room to reach the end zone and tie the game at 7-7 with 8:14 left in the first quarter.

Wide receiver Kyle Ford did not dress for the game after making his first career touchdown catch against Washington State. Defensive tackle Kobe Pepe and safety Chris Thompson Jr. were also among the Trojans who did not dress for the game. Injured quarterback Jaxson Dart (knee) was on the sideline with large brace on his right knee.

EARLY OBSERVATIONS

In the first quarter, USC’s run game pivoted from a two-headed attack to one dominated by Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram. Ingram got all six carries in the first quarter, taking them for 40 yards, including a 12-yard run. Senior Vavae Malepeai’s only first-quarter touch came on a 10-yard pass.

USC receivers did Kedon Slovis no favors in the first quarter, as all four of his incompletions (including an interception on the first drive) were the result of drops by his targets, including three by Memphis transfer Tahj Washington.

USC did get the benefit of five first downs via Oregon State penalty in the first quarter.

Cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart recorded his first interception of the season, making a sideline grab in the end zone to stop an Oregon State drive that had reached the USC 8.

Shohei Ohtani gets plenty of help in Angels’ blowout win

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, poses after being presented with the Angels Most Valuable Player award and the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani kneels on second base after advancing from first on a single by Phil Gosselin during the third inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani rounds first on his way to a triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, yells after sliding into third for a an RBI triple ahead of the tag of Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, slides into third for a an RBI triple ahead of the tag of Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Brandon Marsh, left, collides with home plate umpire Alan Porter, center, as he scores on a triple by Shohei Ohtani during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Luis Rengifo, right gestures while scoring after hitting a solo home run as Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh stands at the plate during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani drops his bat as he hits and RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani runs to first as he hits and RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Brandon Marsh, left, collides with home plate umpire Alan Porter, center, as he scores on a triple by Shohei Ohtani while Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh stands at the plate during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani hits an RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels center fielder Brandon Marsh makes a catch on a fly ball at the wall that was hit by Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels center fielder Brandon Marsh, left, tosses the ball to center fielder Juan Lagares after making a catch on a fly ball at the wall that was hit by Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani stands on third after hitting an Rbi triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, is safe at third for an RBI triple as Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, right, drops the ball during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, is greeted by Luis Rengifo, center, and Patrick Sandoval prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is presented with the Angels Most Valuable Player award by team owner Artie Moreno, right, prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. Ohtani also received the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, is greeted by Luis Rengifo prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jaime Barria throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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ANAHEIM ― It began in the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Houston Astros. No one was on base when Luis Garcia walked Shohei Ohtani on four pitches, or again when Garcia walked Ohtani on five pitches later in the game. There was a runner on second base when Ohtani batted in the seventh, and again in the 10th, Ohtani drawing an intentional walk each time.

By Saturday it had become a running theme ― rather, a walking theme. No one knew when the Angels’ best player would get another good pitch to hit.

Ohtani drew two more walks in the Angels’ 14-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, matching yet another major league record for free passes. He tied Babe Ruth (1930), Bryce Harper (2016) and Yasmani Grandal (2021) for the most walks in a four-game span with 13.

This time, his teammates brought their bats.

Rookie Brandon Marsh, batting one spot ahead of Ohtani in the leadoff hole, collected singles in his first two at-bats against Mariners starter Tyler Anderson. Each time, Ohtani followed with a triple. Neither Marsh nor Ohtani made an out until their fifth plate appearance of the game, in the sixth inning.

The player hitting behind Ohtani, Phil Gosselin, went 2 for 3 with four RBIs. The Angels’ number-6 hitter, Jared Walsh, went 4 for 5 with a pair of bases-loaded doubles. As a team, the Angels collected 14 hits and drew eight walks.

That was more than enough offense to overcome an injury-shortened start by Angels pitcher Jaime Barría. The right-hander was removed after two efficient, scoreless innings with an injury Manager Joe Maddon described as right shoulder tightness.

Including his time in the minors, Barría has thrown 105 2/3 innings in the regular season after throwing 32 1/3 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Rookie left-hander Jhonathan Diaz (1-0) took over in the third inning and, incredibly, finished the game by himself. Diaz allowed only one run over seven innings to earn his first major league victory. He became the 20th different Angels pitcher to earn a win this season, tossing a remarkable 98 pitches in relief.

“He came in and defined that game,” Maddon said. “Give Diaz a lot of credit. He really pitched well. The last time he pitched he got off to a bad start. Tonight he settled in and made pitches all night long.”

The Angels jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then chased Anderson (7-10) by scoring eight runs in the third inning. Luis Rengifo hit a solo home run during the onslaught, the Angels’ only home run among their 14 hits.

The announced crowd of 30,221 at Angel Stadium saw the Angels win for the second time in nine tries on their final homestand of the season.

More importantly for the Angels’ future, the fans saw a pair of rookies evolve into major contributors, for a day if not for longer.

Until this homestand, Maddon had been content to ease Marsh into the lineup by batting him toward the bottom of the order. The Angels’ second-round pick in 2016 had batted leadoff for the majority of his minor league career, but never led off in a major league game before Sept. 16.

Now, with hits in each of his last six games, Marsh has raised his batting average to .262. His two shift-busting singles to left field Saturday perfectly set the stage for Ohtani to drive him in with nearly identical triples to right.

“I think he’s handled it well,” Maddon said of Marsh’s move to the leadoff spot. “If you like what you’re seeing right now, know that it’s going to keep getting better. I do like what I’m seeing right now. … He has all the abilities to be a very good leadoff hitter in the major leagues right now, including the ability to steal bases.”

Marsh also contributed two fantastic catches on the warning track in center field. The first denied Mitch Haniger extra bases in the first inning. The other, in the seventh inning, also robbed Haniger with a long run into the right-center field gap.

Ohtani now has seven triples and 98 RBIs to go with his 45 home runs.

“It’s fun to see him get pitched in the zone, not walked, not intentionally walked,” Marsh said. “I can’t take any credit for that. I’m just up there trying to do my job. I’m going to pass the baton to the next guy.”

Diaz, 25, is not a heralded rookie. He only joined the Angels on a minor league contract last November, and was assigned to Double-A to begin the season. But he spared an Angels bullpen that had been taxed repeatedly on the homestand, a service just as valuable to the team’s present as his own future.

The seven-inning appearance was the longest outing by an Angels pitcher, starter or reliever, since Ohtani tossed eight innings last Sunday. No Angels reliever ― other than a starter pitching in relief of an “opener” ― had thrown seven innings in a game since Vern Ruhle on Aug. 3, 1986.

After throwing 1 2/3 innings in a spot start against the Oakland A’s on Sept. 17, Diaz was stretched out to throw up to 90 pitches.

The extra eight pitches were a welcome bonus.

“I wasn’t really focused on the pitch count or how many pitches I had,” Diaz said. “I was focused on going in there and doing my job.”

Angels’ Mike Trout felt ‘relieved’ after deciding to end his 2021 comeback

ANAHEIM ― Earlier this month, Mike Trout decided it was time. He was ending his quest to play baseball again in 2021. He had been out of action for too long since straining his right calf muscle in May, and there was not enough time left on the calendar to start a proper minor league rehabilitation assignment. So he rested.

A week or two later, Trout started working out again.

“I felt great,” he said. “I don’t feel (the calf injury) at all. The doctors say it should be fully healed.”

It wasn’t the happy, forward-looking note Trout wanted to end the 2021 season on, but it will have to do. By returning to full health ― albeit too late to help the Angels ― he can get a head start on his off-season training regimen with an eye on spring training in 2022.

In his first interview since making the decision to shut down his 2021 comeback, Trout didn’t spend too long indulging various what-ifs Saturday afternoon. He conceded the Angels’ place in the standings made the decision easier. He also acknowledged the risk he faced by coming back prematurely.

“I think if I’d have gone out there, I would’ve been playing a game, two games, have off,” he said. “It would’ve been tough for me. The smarter thing for me is to have a full healthy off-season.”

Trout said there were times this summer when he targeted a specific date for the beginning of a minor league rehab assignment. But when he went through his workout the day before, his body didn’t respond well enough. Trout had to set a new target date with the Angels’ training staff.

That merely added to his frustration ― a mental hurdle to complement the physical ailment.

“If I’d have gone out there and something else happened because I’d have been favoring (his right calf), that would’ve been really frustrating,” Trout said. “Once we made that decision as a group, it put my head where it needed to be. It relieved me a bit, because I was putting so much pressure on myself to go out there. Now I’m in a good place. I’m looking forward to a healthy off-season, looking forward to next year.”

Trout had eight home runs, 18 RBIs and a .333 batting average in 36 games at the time of his injury. Only five Angels entered play Saturday with more home runs this season.

OHTANI UNLEASHED

Shohei Ohtani has a green light to steal a base “almost 100 percent of the time,” Manager Joe Maddon said. Now that he’s drawing walks at an unprecedented rate, Ohtani figures to add to his total of 24 steals this season.

Ohtani drew 11 walks in a three-game span from Wednesday through Friday, tying a record set by Bryce Harper in 2016. He stole one base during the three games.

“It’s just a matter of the pitcher’s rating,” Maddon said. “(Friday) night we had some different opportunities. We were trying. But yeah, if they’re going to walk him, let’s take advantage of his speed.”

Maddon confirmed that Ohtani will hit for himself when he pitches Sunday against Seattle.

UP NEXT

Angels RHP Shohei Ohtani (9-2, 3.28 ERA) vs. Seattle LHP Marco Gonzales (9-5, 4.14 ERA), 1:07 p.m. Sunday, Bally Sports West

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, poses after being presented with the Angels Most Valuable Player award and the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani kneels on second base after advancing from first on a single by Phil Gosselin during the third inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani rounds first on his way to a triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, yells after sliding into third for a an RBI triple ahead of the tag of Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, slides into third for a an RBI triple ahead of the tag of Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Brandon Marsh, left, collides with home plate umpire Alan Porter, center, as he scores on a triple by Shohei Ohtani during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Luis Rengifo, right gestures while scoring after hitting a solo home run as Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh stands at the plate during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani drops his bat as he hits and RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani runs to first as he hits and RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Brandon Marsh, left, collides with home plate umpire Alan Porter, center, as he scores on a triple by Shohei Ohtani while Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh stands at the plate during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani hits an RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels center fielder Brandon Marsh makes a catch on a fly ball at the wall that was hit by Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels center fielder Brandon Marsh, left, tosses the ball to center fielder Juan Lagares after making a catch on a fly ball at the wall that was hit by Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani stands on third after hitting an Rbi triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, is safe at third for an RBI triple as Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, right, drops the ball during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, is greeted by Luis Rengifo, center, and Patrick Sandoval prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is presented with the Angels Most Valuable Player award by team owner Artie Moreno, right, prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. Ohtani also received the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, is greeted by Luis Rengifo prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jaime Barria throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach: Motley Crue’s Vince Neil revs up crowd

Vince Neil, the ‘80s rocker tasked with thrilling fans during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach’s Saturday night concert, took to the stage 30 minutes late.

But when the Motley Crue front man finally arrived, he didn’t disappoint.

He delivered a performance that matched the anticipation of the first Grand Prix — and Saturday night concert — in 2 1/2 years, after the coronavirus pandemic canceled last year’s event.

Racing lovers, Neil shouted after his first two songs, are the “best fans in the world.”

  • Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue, performs for the crowd at the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Fans crowd the stage as Vince Neil performs at the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue, performs for the crowd at the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue, performs for the crowd at the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue, performs for the crowd at the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue, performs for the crowd at the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Those opening tunes were the Motley Crue classics “Dr. Feelgood” and “Shout at the Devil.” The latter tune had a quintet of lyrics that summed up the past 18 months of isolation, social distancing, sickness and death – and, at last, joy slowly returning despite the pandemic’s persistence:

“Oh, lonely is our lives,

“My head’s spinning ’round and ’round,

“But in the seasons of wither,

“We’ll stand and deliver,

“Be strong and laugh …”

For Ventura County resident June Dubreuil and the hundreds of others who converged in front of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center Saturday night, Sept. 25, seeing a good concert made everything seem all right.

“Festivals are happening,” Dubreuil said, “so it’s all good.”

Many of the concertgoers, like Dubreuil, were in downtown Long Beach for the racing, not the music.

But that’s something Neil, whose band personified the hedonism of 1980s rock groups, could appreciate.

He digs racing as well.

The rocker, in fact, competed in the 1992 Firestone Indy Lights Championship and finished in the top 25 that season after completing three races. Neil was so into racing that it was reportedly one of the reasons the band broke up that same year.

But Neil’s legacy will always be Motley Crue.

The band — Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee — celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. During that time, the bandmates survived rehabs, arrests, a near-death experience, break-ups and more.

And massive success: Albums like “Too Fast For Love,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Theatre of Pain,” “Girls Girls Girls” and “Dr. Feelgood” propelled the group to more than 100 million albums sold and a place in the pantheon of metal glam rock stars.

Neil, a Hollywood native who turned 60 in February, kept the hits coming Saturday night. He even belted out the band’s metal ballad hit “Home Sweet Home,” dedicated to veterans. One of Neil’s bandmates brought a vet on stage, prompting the crowd to chant “USA.”

Yet, besides that homage to the country’s service members, the night was a long-awaited party. The atmosphere was energetic. And everyone, it seemed, had a good time.

“I think it complements the race,” Erik Klanderud from Aspen, Colorado, said about the concert. “It’s fun.”

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Dodgers fall flat in loss to last-place Diamondbacks

  • Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner makes a throwing error on a ground ball hit by Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ildemaro Vargas, allowing a run to score, during the fourth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte (4) celebrates his home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers as Diamondbacks third base coach Tony Perezchica, right, looks on during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zac Gallen throw a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw flips a new baseball in the air after giving up a home run to Arizona Diamondbacks’ Carson Kelly during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks’ Carson Kelly, right, steps on home plate after hitting a home run as Los Angeles Dodgers’ catcher Will Smith, left, looks on during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks’ Henry Ramos runs into his own bunt attempt for an out during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo (17) argues with umpire Chad Whitson, left, during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte connects for a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trea Turner, right, celebrates his home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks with teammate Max Muncy (13) during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zac Gallen, right, pauses on the mound after giving up a home run to Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trea Turner, left, during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol celebrates an inning ending double play against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte (4) celebrates his run scored against the Los Angeles Dodgers with Diamondbacks’ David Peralta, left, and Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trea Turner (6) connects for a home run as Dodgers’ Max Muncy (13), umpire Chad Whitson, second from left, and Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly look on during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy gets set to toss his bat after striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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PHOENIX — In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Arizona Diamondbacks are playing under the name ‘Los Serpientes’ this weekend.

But it’s the Dodgers who probably should have used an alias Saturday.

Clayton Kershaw gave up home runs to start each of the first two innings. The Dodgers had as many hits on offense as errors on defense (two) through five innings and struck out eight times in six innings against Zac Gallen in an uninspired 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“It wasn’t a well-played game tonight,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said bluntly.

“I think tonight Gallen was just better than we were. I don’t know how else to spin it.”

There was no positive spin to put on a game in which the Dodgers managed just five hits and were beaten by the 105-loss Diamondbacks. Combined with the Giants’ win in Colorado Saturday night, the Dodgers fell two games back in the NL West race.

“I don’t think we look at it that way. I think we’re just trying to win a game,” Kershaw said of chasing the Giants. “Obviously we’re watching what they do. We’re definitely looking at the scoreboard and things like that. But we can’t control that. We’re not super worried about what they’re doing. We’re just trying to win games. It’s hard to do both. It’s hard to focus on your game and hope that they lose and things like that. Just come out and try to win tomorrow.”

The Dodgers are beginning to run out of tomorrows in the division race. The Giants’ magic number to clinch the division (the combined number of Giants wins and Dodgers losses) is down to six.

“It’s over. Obiously we’d love to have this one back. But you have to move on,” said Trea Turner who was the sum total of the Dodgers’ offense with two solo home runs. “The only game we can win is the next one on our schedule.”

That schedule seemed to serve up a fat one for the Dodgers this weekend. But the Diamondbacks jumped on Kershaw immediately. Ketel Marte ripped Kershaw’s first pitch of the night on a line into the left-field seats. Carson Kelly hit Kershaw’s second pitch of the second inning for another home run.

“Just a couple bad pitches early,” Kershaw said. “You miss your spot sometimes. Hopefully they keep it in the ballpark but it didn’t happen tonight. I put us in a hole early, couldn’t get out of the fifth. There were a few good throws in there but overall it wasn’t great.”

The Diamondbacks scored an unearned run off Kershaw in the fourth inning when Justin Turner made a throwing error on what could have been an inning-ending ground out.

Kershaw gave up two hits to start the fifth inning and an RBI single to Daulton Varsho after the Dodger infield couldn’t turn a double play on Henry Ramos’ bouncer to Justin Turner.

That was the end of Kershaw’s night. In his third start back from the Injured List, Kershaw lasted just 4 1/3 innings and left trailing 4-0. He gave up six hits, striking out just three. He threw 73 pitches and got just 10 swings-and-misses after getting 20 on 74 pitches against the Reds last weekend.

“The fastball velocity was good. He just didn’t have command tonight,” Roberts said. “You look at his pitch mix — the fastball, the slider and the curveball — it just wasn’t crisp tonight and he didn’t command it the way we know he can.”

The Dodgers’ offense offered no cover for Kershaw’s rough start.

Gallen (who earned a win for just the third time in 22 starts this season) struck out six of the first seven Dodgers batters and allowed just three hits in his six innings, flashing the potential that is one of the few bright spots the sagging Serpientes have.

“We just couldn’t figure out Gallen,” Roberts said. “He just came out and stuck it to us. We got behind early and couldn’t recover.”

Trea Turner hit his home runs off Gallen in the sixth inning and another leading off the ninth against Caleb Smith. But the Dodgers had just one other baserunner over the final three innings, going mildly while the Diamondbacks added a run in the seventh and two in the eighth against the Dodgers’ bullpen.

“They all hurt, like I say. That’s why regardless of record you’ve still got to go out and play the game,” Roberts said. “Tonight, Gallen had our number and we couldn’t get anything going outside of Trea.

“When you’re looking at seven games left in a season and potentially … trailing by two games with seven to go, yeah, it hurts. But what we have to do is win tomorrow. Things can still change but we have to win the games for us to win.”

Los Alamitos horse racing consensus picks for Sunday Sept. 26

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday Sept. 26 for horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger: ‘At the end of the day, I have confidence in myself and believe in myself’

PHOENIX — These have been trying times for Cody Bellinger, to say the least.

If it isn’t the injuries — a fracture in his left fibula, a hamstring strain and now a rib fracture — it’s the flood of strikeouts, pop ups and fly outs that have dragged his batting average and OPS lower and lower.

“It’s my first time I’ve ever dealt with injuries. It happens. It’s been wild, I’m not gonna lie,” Bellinger said Saturday at Chase Field as he began working out in preparation for a return from the rib injury.

“It’s been a grind for sure. It’s not fun. But at the end of the day, I have confidence in myself and believe in myself. … As bad as it’s been, I still feel really good and confident and excited and all that kind of stuff. I’m in a good spot.”

Bellinger is currently on the Injured List with the rib fracture suffered when he collided with Gavin Lux on a play in the outfield during the Dodgers’ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 13.

“I remember walking back and thinking, ‘Dang, he got me a little bit.’ But I thought the wind got knocked out of me,” Bellinger said. “So the next day I was going to hit early but it kind of hurt. I thought I knew what a broken bone feels like. It hurt but I didn’t think it was broken. During the game with the adrenaline and all that, it didn’t hurt. I don’t know if I did something in the third or fourth game but after that off day in Cincy, I was in pain.

“We got it checked out and it showed a crack.”

Bellinger said the pain has gone from “pretty sharp a week ago or a few days ago” to “dull now — playable, I’d say.” He went through a full workout on the field Saturday and could return as soon as Tuesday.

When he does it will be with some swing adjustments he made in the week or so before suffering the rib injury. Bellinger lowered his hands and spread out his stance — changes he admits he was reluctant to make.

“You have success and it’s hard to change what you’ve had success with,” Bellinger said. “But I realize my body isn’t what it was in the years past because of the (shoulder) surgery and all that stuff — blah blah blah. Had to make an adjustment. I feel shorter. I feel more compact and I felt good. Unfortunately I got hurt right after I did it.

“It’s a game of adjustments. I feel confident right now.”

But Bellinger’s average has been below .200 since the Fourth of July, his OPS under .600 since mid-August. What took so long to make those adjustments?

“I won Rookie of the Year and MVP with the hands up here,” Bellinger said honestly. “But it came to a point where I was, ‘Alright, I’m on my pitch but I’m not hitting it. Let’s make an adjustment.’”

Bellinger will bring a complete new look when he steps in the batter’s box again. He showed up at Chase Field Friday with his long hair shorn to a buzz cut — perhaps a superstitious attempt to change his luck this season?

“I mean, hey, it wasn’t me. Had to be the hair,” Bellinger joked. “Honestly it (his long hair) was getting annoying. Now I feel fresh.”

OUTFIELD LOOK

Chris Taylor was back in the starting lineup Saturday for the first time since Sunday in Cincinnati and only the third time in the Dodgers’ past 12 games. But it was in left field — where he made two outstanding plays in the ninth inning Friday night — not center field.

Gavin Lux stayed in center field. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Lux feels more comfortable there than left field, having played almost all of his career in the middle of the field (second base and shortstop). It also allows Taylor to run a little less as he tries to play through a neck injury.

AJ Pollock was not in the lineup Saturday after starting the previous two games. Pollock is still not fully recovered from the hamstring strain that landed him on the Injured List and Roberts acknowledged he will have manage playing time for both Pollock and Taylor.

“I think that’s what it is — I think it’s managing,” Roberts said. “They’re both valuable to our ballclub, being in there starting or off the bench. but most importantly we’ve got to keep them both healthy. Getting AJ out of games, managing CT’s starts I think will be beneficial. Certainly the way Gavin has played has made things better for all of us.”

UP NEXT

Dodgers (LHP Julio Urias 18-3, 3.10 ERA) at Diamondbacks (RHP Humberto Mejia 0-2, 7.20 ERA) Sunday 1:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM

Port of LA cruises are back: The Grand Princess became the first ship to sail out of San Pedro since pandemic began

“The Love Boat soon will be making another run.”

So go the lyrics of the famous television show from the 1970s and ‘80s.

And on Saturday, Sept. 25, a cruise ship made another run from the Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center Berth 93 — the same spot where the opening “Love Boat” credits were filmed.

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Grand Princess set sail from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, marking the first sailing from the Port of Los Angeles and the ships first sailing since the cruise industry’s pause in operations. Grand Princess departed on a five-Day Cabo San Lucas Getaway, the first of five sailings with this itinerary and the first of 11 sailings from the Port of Los Angeles in 2021. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

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When the 951-foot Grand Princess left the Los Angeles port around 4 p.m., it was the first time a cruise ship had set sail from there since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.

The ship departed on a five-day Cabo San Lucas Getaway about a month after the Carnival Panorama became the first cruise line to leave the Port of Long Beach since March 2020.

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Thompson-Robinson leads No. 24 UCLA over Stanford football in Pac-12 opener

  • UCLA’s Kyle Philips (2) runs back a punt-return against the Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet (24) scores a touchdown past Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly (17) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) hands off to running back Zach Charbonnet (24) against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee (18) throws a pass against the UCLA during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford head coach David Shaw, left, talks with UCLA head coach Chip Kelly, right, before an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford head coach David Shaw, left, talks with UCLA head coach Chip Kelly before an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 of the UCLA Bruins warms up during pregame warm ups prior to the start of his game against Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Tanner McKee #18 of the Stanford Cardinal warms up during pregame warm ups prior to the start of his game against the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Head coaches David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal and Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins stand and talk during pregame warm ups prior to their game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 of the UCLA Bruins celebrates with teammates after he scored a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 of the UCLA Bruins celebrates with teammates after he scored on a two yard run against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, center, is sacked by Stanford linebacker Jordan Fox (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee (18) is sacked by UCLA defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Head coach Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins looks on from the sidelines against the Stanford Cardinal during the third quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Tanner McKee #18 of the Stanford Cardinal throws a pass against the UCLA Bruins during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Nicholas Barr-Mira #2 of the UCLA Bruins returns a punt 60 yards against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Elijah Higgins #6 of the Stanford Cardinal scores on a fifty six yard pass play against the UCLA Bruins during the third quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) throws a pass against the Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs for a touchdown against the Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal looks on from the sidelines against the UCLA Bruins during the third quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Zach Charbonnet #24 of the UCLA Bruins scores a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Tanner McKee #18 of the Stanford Cardinal drops back to pass against the UCLA Bruins during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) dives for a first down over Stanford defensive end Thomas Booker, bottom right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) throws a pass against the Stanford during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • UCLA wide receiver Chase Cota (23) can not make the catch in front of Stanford cornerback Nicolas Toomer (24) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford running back Nathaniel Peat (8) is stopped by UCLA defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight (24), linebacker Ale Kaho (10) and defensive back Kenny Churchwell III (28) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Zach Charbonnet #24 of the UCLA Bruins carries the ball against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 of the UCLA Bruins scrambles with the ball against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Stanford wide receiver Brycen Tremayne (81) catches a touchdown pass over UCLA defensive back Devin Kirkwood (26) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee (18) throws a touchdown pass against the UCLA during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Stanford wide receiver Elijah Higgins (6) catches a pass over UCLA defensive back Martell Irby (12) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 of the UCLA Bruins throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 of the UCLA Bruins scores a touchdown on a two yard run against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Stanford wide receiver Elijah Higgins (6) catches a pass over UCLA defensive back Martell Irby (12) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) is pressured by Stanford linebacker Ricky Miezan, center, and linebacker Jordan Fox, left, during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

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STANFORD — On a first-and-goal run late in the fourth quarter, Dorian Thompson-Robinson was tackled out-of-bounds with No. 24 UCLA up four at Stanford, and he stayed down before heading to the sideline. In came backup quarterback Ethan Garbers, and in a flash, doubt creeped into whether the Bruins could hang on in their Pac-12 opener.

But after watching a play from the sideline, Thompson-Robinson — nursing an apparent shoulder injury — came back and sealed the 35-24 road win on Saturday with a third-down, 5-yard touchdown pass to a sliding Kyle Phillips to put UCLA up two scores late in the fourth quarter. He took another hit on the play, ending up on his back as his teammates celebrated in the end zone.

“Just catch the ball,” Phillips said, when asked what he was thinking. “Dorian threw a good ball. He put it out there where only I could go get it.”

A week after a grueling home loss to Fresno State in which UCLA gave up a late touchdown, the Bruins this time didn’t leave enough time for Stanford to make a comeback.

Thompson-Robinson, teammates said, wasn’t going to allow another letdown to happen.

“Dorian literally put the team on his back,” defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight said. “He was really down bad throughout this whole game.”

But he fought through the pain, according to head coach Chip Kelly.

“The one thing that doesn’t get mentioned enough about Dorian is how tough he is,” Kelly said. “He’s been tough from the get-go. It’s an underrated quality for a quarterback, to be a tough guy, to stand in there and play.”

Thompson-Robinson, who was not made available to the media after the game, also rushed for two touchdowns, punctuating a balanced UCLA offensive attack. The Bruins had 304 yards on the ground and Thompson-Robinson threw for 212 in the air. Running back Zach Charbonnet led the run attack with 209 yards.

UCLA’s secondary gave up two big plays in the second half as a 21-7 lead evaporated thanks to two long touchdown throws by Stanford’s quarterback, Corona Centennial High product Tanner McKee. The first was a 56-yard pass over the middle for Elijah Higgins and the second a 46-yard throw to Bryce Farrell, who raced to the right pylon to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.

But UCLA answered on the next play from scrimmage, with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson finding Kyle Phillips in between two defenders over the middle for a 75-yard score to reclaim the lead, 28-21.

Kelly said that Thompson-Robinson and Phillips, who finished with five catches for 111 yards, ran the play to perfection: Phillips sprinting down the seam and a bang-bang play.

“It’s exactly what he talked about on the sideline before that,” Kelly said.  “We’re going to get an open set and try to see if we can get a seam ball here. And he handles it.”

UCLA’s defense — which a week ago was picked apart by Fresno State’s Jake Haener for 455 yards in the air — held up in the first half. Stanford didn’t record a first down until midway through the second quarter, on its sixth drive. UCLA held the Cardinal short of the sticks for the entire first quarter for the first time since 2018.

UCLA went up 21-7 before halftime on a drive where Charbonnet was targeted four more times, setting up Thompson-Robinson for a score on a 2-yard carry off a fake handoff.

The Bruins led by two scores as well in the first quarter, scoring early after a strong Philips’ punt return set the Bruins up in the red zone following a three-and-out by Stanford to start the game. Thompson-Robinson carried it in himself on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Then, the Bruins engineered an 18-play, 88 yard drive over the span of eight minutes, capped off by a Charbonnet 5-yard touchdown run. Charbonnet, after getting just six carries last week, had 14 carries for 63 yards in the first quarter alone on Saturday.

Last year, UCLA lost to Stanford in double overtime, 48-47. And on the heels of a devastating loss to Fresno State, Knight said that the team had “two examples of what not to do and what to do” late in a game.

This time, they chose the right example.

“It just took guts, guts to finish a game,” Knight said. “Bruins finish.”

UCLA ‘back in the groove’ of being on the road

STANFORD — They filed into Stanford Stadium as the visiting team amidst a sea of red on a hazy Saturday afternoon, wearing their white tops and gold pants. They warmed up in the end zone next to their band — which was tucked into the corner — their cleats stepping on logos on the field that were not their own. And when they ran back onto the field before kickoff with their fight song playing, barely anyone noticed after Stanford’s smoke-filled entrance was met with a roar from the home crowd.

For UCLA, it was a scene that had been unfamiliar for nearly two years — or 672 days, to be precise — while it was Stanford’s first home game since last November, with fans allowed for the first time in 665 days. It had been 14 games since the Bruins traveled to a road stadium outside Los Angeles with no capacity restrictions, with their first three games this season taking place at the Rose Bowl.

“This whole pandemic is a thing of firsts for everybody,” head coach Chip Kelly said last week. “Every day, you see a new statistic. It’s 600 days since this, it’s 500 days since that. It’s just part of us getting back into the groove of what it is to have a normal football season.”

The pregame routine, though, remained the same. The team had meetings at the same times and ate at the same times, according to Kelly. They played music during practice to simulate the crowd noise.

Kelly joked during the week that in preparation for the long-awaited road trip, the team “drove around campus like 16 times in a bus” for practice.

“You’ve just got to go,” Kelly said. “We were fortunate to play three home games because of how our out-of-conference schedule fell. We’ll have some kids travel for the first time, but it is a veteran team.”

The team wears masks when they travel on buses or planes because a few players remain unvaccinated. Kelly added that UCLA has experience with the new protocols on road trips from last season, and that the freshmen received briefings from their positional coaches.

“Kinda used to the protocols by now,” wide receiver Kam Brown said. “Just keep a close knit circle with the guys on the team and focus on what you need to focus on.”

Still, even as college football in 2021 appears closer to normal than last year, Kelly warned during the week that his players have to remain cautious, especially as students arrived on campus last week for the start of the school year.

After next week’s home game against Arizona State, UCLA hits the road three of the next four weeks, beginning with a back-to-back at Arizona and Washington for their first trips outside California.

“Our players have been good protecting our ecosystem,” Kelly said. “But as you start to add more students to campus, the atmosphere around here is going to be a little bit different. They have to understand that they’ve got a lot at stake.”

9 a.m. KICKOFFS?

At least one Pac-12 head coach is a big fan of day games. Kelly said after the game that he enjoyed the 3 p.m. kickoff, the routine consisting of “wake up Saturday morning, get a little breakfast and you play football.” He said he enjoyed seeing the sunset over Stanford Stadium.

“I don’t like playing games at night, because you’ve got to sit around all day long,” Kelly said. “I wish we could play at 9 a.m.”

EBOH GETS THE NOD

Cornerback Obi Eboh, a graduate transfer who spent four years at Stanford, was named one of UCLA’s captains in his first trip back to Palo Alto.

MOVING UP THE BOOKS

Dorian Thompson-Robinson passed Rick Bashore for seventh on the list of career starts for a UCLA quarterback. Thompson-Robinson started his 28th game for the Bruins on Saturday, surpassing Bashore, who was the starter from 1976-79.

INJURY REPORT

There was some injury concern during the week with a few defensive starters, but linebacker Mitchell Agude, defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia and safety Quentin Lake all warmed up pregame and suited up.

Center Sam Marrazzo, who just returned last week from a leg injury, went down early in the third quarter and left the game. Duke Clemens replaced Marrazzo at center.


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