One sequence cannot do this game justice, not during a 10-2 defeat Wednesday to the Cubs when the Dodgers' lineup hibernated, the pitchers quivered and the defense self-destructed. But one moment will stand out, well after the outcome was decided, well after it became clear the National League Championship Series will return to Chicago this weekend.
In the sixth inning of Game 4, with the bases loaded with Cubs and the Dodgers already down six runs, Joc Pederson launched himself across the outfield grass at Dodger Stadium to snag a sinking line drive by Javier Baez. He rose up and decided not to concede a sacrifice fly. What followed transformed this game from a rout into a farce.
Pederson spiked the throw in the infield. The ball bounced over catcher Yasmani Grandal's head. Sliding into the backstop, reliever Luis Avilan corralled the baseball — only to uncork a wild throw that bounced by Grandal at the plate. The throw from Pederson counted as his team's fourth error of the game and second in the inning, a five-run frame that sunk the Dodgers' chances for a comeback.
"We played a pretty sloppy game," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said.
It was an uncharacteristic evening for these Dodgers, who entered the night capable of pushing their opponents to the brink. Instead, they fumbled the baseball in the field and ran into outs on the bases. A legitimate gripe about a second-inning replay challenge could not overshadow an evening-long pounding that tied the series at 2-2.
Blanked in the previous two games, the Cubs roared back to eject 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias in the fourth inning.
The youngest player to ever start in the playoffs, Urias held his opponents at bay until the fourth, when he served up a two-run homer to shortstop Addison Russell in a four-run rally.
The bullpen blundered through the last five innings.
The defeat does not doom the Dodgers. They will be underdogs in Game 5 on Thursday, when playoff punching bag Kenta Maeda faces Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. But the Dodgers will still have Clayton Kershaw lined up for Game 6 and Rich Hill for a potential Game 7 when the series returns to Wrigley Field.
"I think our guys are going to turn the page," Manager Dave Roberts said. "I'm certain we'll be ready to go tomorrow."
The Dodgers found a grievance in the second inning. A single by Gonzalez and a walk by Grandal set the table for rookie Andrew Toles. He punched a two-out single into right field. With Urias due up next, third-base coach Chris Woodward rolled the dice. He used Gonzalez to challenge Heyward's arm.
The throw reached catcher Willson Contreras before Gonzalez reached the plate. Contreras spun into position as Gonzalez dove. Gonzalez stretched his left hand to the lip of the plate, and appeared to beat the tag. Umpire Angel Hernandez saw differently, and clenched his fist.
Gonzalez ignored the out signal and implored the Dodgers to challenge the call. He accepted congratulations from his teammates in the dugout. He hung over the railing, chatting with the TV crew as the umpires connected with the replay crew in Manhattan.
"What do you got?" Gonzalez said. "Safe, right? Let's go, don't mess it up, New York."
As crew chief Gary Cederstrom plugged a pair of headphones over his ears, the crowd made its verdict clear. A chant of "Safe! Safe! Safe!" rained down from the third deck. The umpires took two minutes and 51 seconds to determine the evidence was inconclusive. The call stood.
Gonzalez was still peeved after the game. He tweeted a picture of the play and wrote it was "Us against the world." He said two umpires, who he declined to name, told him he looked safe on the replay. He suggested "independent people" should review plays, not other umpires. He designated the call as the night's turning point.
"We take a lead, so many different things can happen," Gonzalez said. "Julio has a run to work with. We turn the lineup over. Next inning, we go to the top of the lineup. Julio could have gotten a hit and scored a run. I mean, it's a whole different game."
Instead, Urias blinked in the fourth. The Cubs jabbed him for three consecutive hits, starting with a bunt single by Ben Zobrist. An RBI single by Contreras was compounded by a throwing error from Toles.
After Jason Heyward drove in a run with a groundout, Russell drilled a waist-high fastball to give his club a four-run lead.
"I went out there to give my best for my team," Urias said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get the result."
His teammates could not bridge the gap. Grandal stranded a pair of runners in the fourth. The team loaded the bases with none out in the fifth, but only emerged with two runs. In the sixth, the fight was snuffed out of the Dodgers.
A wild throw by backup infielder Enrique Hernandez gave Russell an extra base on an infield single. Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery managed a single off Ross Stripling. Dexter Fowler drove in a run with a single.
Anthony Rizzo brought two more home with another. Then Baez sent a ball into Pederson's direction, igniting the sequence that defined this blowout.
"We've got to be better tomorrow," Pederson said. "Find a way to win."