There was a comebacker, then a backbreaker.
Thirty-five lifeless baseball innings from the San Diego Padres lineup this weekend, then an unlucky inning from the Dodgers bullpen on Sunday afternoon.
The Dodgers could have won the four-game series against their division rivals, but still wasted an opportunity for what could have been a huge mid-season sweep on Sunday, taking a lead in the weekend finale by losing 4- 2 ahead of 42,633 at Dodger Stadium.
Craig Kimbrel forfeited the deciding points, blasting his third save of the last seven chances after Jake Cronenworth hit a line drive that punctured Kimbrel in the back, Luke Voit scored a double draw from the top of the left wall, and Eric Hosmer hit a go-ahead single on the right.
Yency Almonte conceded a two-point home run to Ha-Seong Kim later in the inning after Kimbrel left the game with a manager.
The Dodgers then failed in a last-ditch comeback attempt, pulling the pot twice in the last two bars of the game but failing to capitalize one day they blocked 11 men on the base.
“Unfortunately,” said manager Dave Roberts, “we couldn’t put them away in the end.”
When Kimbrel emerged early in the ninth inning, the Dodgers (49-29) were leading 1-0 and on the verge of a near-flawless weekend.
They had beaten the Padres (47-34) in their first three games, creating the much-needed separation in the National League West standings.
Their lineup had recovered Mookie Betts, who came back with a bang from a rib injury on Sunday going two scored for three with two walks and two points.
And their pitching staff had been dominant, limiting the Padres to four points in their first three games, then ruling them out for the first eight innings Sunday behind Clayton Kershaw’s seven-inning gem.
But then the game changed to a 100.5mph line that hit Kimbrel straight in the back.
Kimbrel put the ball in, though not in time to get Cronenworth out on first base. Kimbrel crouched briefly in pain before standing up, throwing a few training throws in front of a coach and staying in the game.
“There was a thought [to taking him out]Roberts said. “But a guy like that, when he says he’s okay and throws some shots, we liked what we saw.”
The good feeling wouldn’t last.
In the next bar, Voit threw a left moon shot that landed on top of the wall in front of the Dodgers bullpen, bounced off the outside Gavin Lux with an unusual side carom, and allowed Cronenworth to run home and equalize point.
Hosmer punched the stomach after that, throwing a single RBI into the right field that gave the Padres their first lead from the first inning of Thursday’s opening game of the series.
Kimbrel didn’t throw another pitch, coming out alongside a coach while Almonte was called up by the bullpen.
Subsequently, Roberts said the scans on Kimbrel’s back were clean, but the right-hander would be lowered for the next couple of days.
As for Kimbrel’s role as closest, Roberts said he is “not even considering” a change despite a recent 15-game stretch in which Kimbrel recorded an ERA of 6.28.
“I think he earned it,” said Roberts, adding that, given the other injuries in the bullpen, keeping Kimbrel in the ninth inning is “still pretty easy.”
The Dodgers also considered positive this weekend.
They extended their lead in the division from 1 1/2 games to 3 1/2 games.
Their starting four pitchers combined to forfeit three points total in 24th innings.
And they resumed their lineup at their best, showing a new batting order on Sunday where Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman reached second and third place respectively, for the first time this season behind Betts in the lead. .
“I thought it went pretty well today,” said Turner, who won three out of four with an RBI.
The only problem:
“I just didn’t get the win,” Turner said, adding, “We let one slip today, but for the most part we took care of the business. That’s what it is. It’s a good team over there too. we’re just giving away games. They kept on competing and got back in the game. “