Sergio Romo was sorting through his luggage, preparing to depart Coors Field after a 9-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies, when he noticed a small crowd around his locker.
“You guys looking to talk to me?” he asked.
Romo stayed composed. But the topic was unpleasant. He had played a pivotal role in the Dodgers’ defeat on Sunday, serving up a two-run homer in the fifth inning. He was not alone in difficulty on the mound. Julio Urias gave up five runs in four innings. Chris Hatcher spoiled a comeback bid by surrendering another two-run shot in the eighth.
It was Romo, though, whom the Dodgers signed this past winter as a potential replacement for setup man Joe Blanton. Romo had a championship pedigree in San Francisco and a devastating off-speed pitch in his slider. Yet the pedigree means little when the pitch does not cooperate. In 16 appearances as a Dodger, Romo owns an 8.03 earned-run average and appears unlikely to perform in high-leverage situations.
“I can’t sit there and put my finger on one thing, like, ‘This is exactly what’s wrong,’” Romo said. “I can’t. I feel good. I feel fine. I feel strong. The ball is coming out of my hand well. It just seems to be that one pitch every outing.”
On Sunday, the culprit was a 76-mph Frisbee at the knees of Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. The pitch spun into Arenado’s barrel. It was one of three homers on the day for Colorado, including a pair by former UCLA Bruin Pat Valaika. Valaika took Urias deep in the fourth and punished Hatcher in the eighth.
The performance by Urias squashed the excitement from his last outing, when he suppressed the Pirates for six innings without a hit. Urias had survived that night despite faulty control of his changeup and curveball. Even his fastball deserted him Sunday. Twice he coughed up the leads generated by his offense.
“He didn’t really have anything to go to,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He didn’t have command of anything.”
The Dodgers cobbled together six runs on Sunday despite stranding 11 runners and botching situational opportunities, including a disastrous bunt in the first inning.
The bunt short-circuited an early rally against Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela. A few hours before the game, the video board in left field flashed “SENZATIONAL”; Senzatela played a sizable role in Colorado’s rise to first place. He posted a 2.86 ERA in his first seven starts.
Beneath the surface, though, Senzatela appeared a juicy target. He leaned on his fastball more than 75% of the time. He struck out fewer than five batters per nine innings. “We’re just looking to be aggressive and take that fastball away from him,” Roberts said before the game.
The first two batters of the game followed that strategy. Joc Pederson took a walk. Corey Seager ran the count full, then unloaded on a fastball. The two-run homer landed in the Dodgers’ bullpen.
The Dodgers kept pestering Senzatela, with singles by Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal. Up came Chris Taylor. Scorching at the plate only a few days ago, Taylor had produced three hits in his last 21 at-bats before Sunday. Roberts called for a safety squeeze, hoping to bring home Turner from third.
Disaster struck instead. Taylor pushed the bunt back to Senzatela. Turner got caught in a rundown. Grandal got tagged out trying to reach third. The rally fizzled.
“We’ve got to execute in certain situations,” Roberts said.
Even so, the Dodgers still led by two runs. The advantage lasted four batters. Urias gave up a pair of singles to start the bottom of the first. After new first baseman Chase Utley couldn’t secure a popup in foul territory, Arenado stroked an RBI double. Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds followed with a two-run single.
The Dodgers reclaimed the lead with a solo homer by Yasiel Puig in the second and an RBI single by Grandal in the third, only to see Urias combust in the fourth.
The wounds were self-inflicted. He walked outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Urias tried to compensate for the free pass by picking Gonzalez off. The throw zipped well wide of Utley’s glove, and Gonzalez ran to third.
“That was an error that was completely my fault,” Urias said. “It was all my fault. It seemed like after that, the momentum went in their direction.”
Gonzalez did not stay at third for long. Urias’ next pitch was a pitiable curveball. Valaika made the ball disappear in the center-field trees for a lead that Colorado never relinquished. It was the first homer Urias had given up in 2017. Urias pitched into the fifth, but left after hitting outfielder Charlie Blackmon with a curveball.