If the Dodgers’ bullpen wobbled Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, their defense fell into a bottomless ravine.
The Dodgers committed four errors for the first time in more than three years on the way to a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies in which the relievers had plenty of “help” in squandering a late lead.
Russell Martin, making a rare start at third base, made a pair of throwing errors, including one that led to an unearned run, and reserve catcher Danny Ardoin contributed to the Rockies’ ninth-inning rally with a throw that sailed into center field as the Dodgers’ bullpen failed to protect a lead for the third time in four games.
Fill-in closer Jonathan Broxton, entrusted to preserve a 3-3 tie in the top of the ninth, didn’t help himself when he plunked leadoff hitter Matt Holliday in the shoulder with a 97-mph fastball. Holliday stole second base and took third on Ardoin’s error, which gave the Dodgers four errors for the first time since Aug. 13, 2005, against the New York Mets.
Holliday scored on Brad Hawpe’s single past drawn-in second baseman Jeff Kent, and Rockies closer Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth to drop the Dodgers two games behind Arizona in the National League West.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre declined to second-guess his decision to use an irregular infield, saying he was “comfortable with those guys playing those positions. . . . It’s tough to say you wish this was different, except the score.”
Shaky defense also cost reliever Chan Ho Park, who entered in the seventh with the Dodgers clinging to a 3-2 lead. Willy Taveras reached with one out after Martin committed his second error in two innings when his throw pulled first baseman Casey Blake off the bag. Taveras went to second on Holliday’s broken-bat single to right field and scored an unearned run on Hawpe’s single to center.
“You always wish you could take those plays back when you make a mistake,” Martin said, “but there’s nothing I can do now.”
Martin had looked steadier in the field just two innings earlier. He helped Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley minimize a bases-loaded, no-out mess in the fifth when he fielded a pair of grounders and fired to Ardoin for force outs, the second throw starting a 5-2-3 double play that ended the inning. The Rockies scored one run in the inning when Blake booted Hawpe’s dribbler and then made an errant flip past Billingsley as the pitcher attempted to cover first base.
“Russell has played at third base and has played well there,” Billingsley said. “He just rushed a couple of throws and was off-target.”
Billingsley pitched six strong innings, giving up five hits and two runs, including Troy Tulowitzki’s fourth-inning homer to left-center. He walked four and struck out six.
The first inning provided another microcosm of Matt Kemp’s striking talent and stunning penchant to lose his way on the basepaths.
His single through the right side of the infield drove in Juan Pierre with the Dodgers’ first run. Yet he failed to keep track of the ball on Kent’s fly ball to left and was easily doubled off.
But as he tends to do, Kemp redeemed himself in the second. Kemp fielded Jeff Francis’ sharp single to right field and made a strong one-hop throw to Ardoin, who tagged out Ian Stewart during a violent home-plate collision.