The kinetic chain of mistakes went from the pitcher to the catcher to the second baseman. The string of slip-ups cost the Dodgers a run in the eighth inning of a 2-1 defeat to the Colorado Rockies and ended a four-game winning streak. Pedro Baez walked a batter he should not have walked. Yasmani Grandal threw a ball too far. Chase Utley threw a ball too short. The sequence proved decisive.
After an uplifting weekend in Washington, the Dodgers (20-27) face-planted back at Dodger Stadium. They squandered a splendid outing from rookie starting pitcher Walker Buehler. The defense faltered in the eighth as Colorado moved into the lead for the first time. The offense looked helpless at the hands of a pitcher with more hits given up than innings pitched in 2018.
“We didn’t get any production,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Buehler lasted seven innings in the longest outing of his professional career. After four perfect innings, he yielded only two hits, one a solo home run. He remained in the game after getting smoked by a liner in the fifth. He struck out six.
Baez was the first man out of the Dodgers bullpen with the score tied at 1-1. The second batter he faced was backup catcher Tony Wolters, a man with a .130 batting average. Baez lost command of the strike zone, missing high and low to bequeath Wolters first base. Grandal would help Wolters advance.
As Rockies second baseman Pat Valaika swung through a pitch, Wolters broke for second base. The throw from Grandal sailed into the outfield as Wolters went to third base. Roberts argued that Valaika’s backswing had interfered with Grandal. The umpires disagreed. The play could not be reviewed.
“It’s the umpire’s discretion,” Grandal said. “He makes the call. He didn’t see it. He didn’t call it. That’s pretty much it.”
Baez struck out Valaika to push the Dodgers one out closer to escape. Roberts inserted left-handed reliever Scott Alexander in search of a ground ball against Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Alexander did his job. Gonzalez hit a dribbler toward the middle of the infield, where Utley swept it up in his glove as he charged toward second base.
Utley took two steps and made a jumping, side-arm throw. The ball skipped toward first baseman Max Muncy. Muncy tried to time its arrival but missed the throw. Gonzalez was safe. The Rockies had the lead. The woes of the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine would continue, with an 8-14 record thus far in 2018.
“Didn’t get a whole lot on the throw,” Utley said. “I knew there was a runner at third, and I had to get rid of it.”
The game ended with a fittingly bizarre play. Matt Kemp reached base on an infield single as the throw bounced by first baseman Ian Desmond. Wolters was backing up the play and fed Desmond, who tagged Kemp out. The umpires ruled that Kemp had taken a step toward second base, which made him a live runner. The play could not be reviewed.
The Dodgers returned home after a confounding trip. Losers of their first two games at Miami, they rallied for four victories in a row, including a sweep of the Washington Nationals. They avoided defeat despite facing Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in consecutive games.
Colorado presented a less formidable starting pitcher. German Marquez brought to the mound a 5.15 earned-run average with 52 hits given up in 432/3 innings. The Dodgers countered with Buehler, making his sixth big-league start.
Buehler geared himself for another summit Monday. He generated a flurry of groundouts at the start. Six of the first nine batters he faced grounded out. Two struck out.
The Rockies showed their first sign of life in the fourth inning. Buehler left an elevated curveball for All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. The ball soared toward the left-field pole, bending foul. Buehler was undaunted. On the next pitch, he flung a 96-mph fastball for his third strikeout. It was his 50th pitch.
By the time Buehler returned to the mound, he had a lead to protect. Muncy walloped the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth, a belt-high fastball from Marquez. The solo shot, his fifth homer, landed in the right-field bleachers.
The fifth was painful in multiple ways for Buehler. He lost his bid for a perfect game, no-hitter and shutout in one swing from Colorado outfielder Gerardo Parra.
At the end of a nine-pitch at-bat, Parra launched a 96-mph fastball over the fence in left-center field.
The next blow hurt Buehler in a different way. A line drive whistled off the bat of Rockies shortstop Trevor Story at 108 mph. The baseball connected with Buehler’s ribs.
Buehler picked up the ball and threw to first base for an out. Then he hunched over at the waist. Roberts and trainer Nate Lucero raced to the mound.
Buehler gathered himself, threw a few warmup pitches and remained in the game.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played football, but it felt a lot like getting the wind knocked out of you,” Buehler said. “I’ve never broken a rib, so I don’t really know how that would feel.”