Dodgers’ bullpen blows another lead in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies

Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly delivers during a 7-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.
(Associated Press)

The Dodgers’ wacky and exhausting seven-game trip off the All-Star break came to a fitting conclusion Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. The matinee started unusually early at 12:30 p.m. EDT and was the first game exclusively broadcast on YouTube. There was thunder and lightning and more and more rain. When it was over, they watched the opposing closer scream an expletive at them in celebration before they headed into the clubhouse to realize their flight was delayed because of mechanical issues.

And for all the oddities, they emerged with a familiar sour taste: another bullpen letdown in a 7-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. The result left the clubs with a series split and the Dodgers with a 4-3 road trip.

“Every pitcher’s job is to go out there and get outs — get outs you’re supposed to get,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t do that today.”

The Dodgers (64-35) built a 5-3 lead on the backs of Enrique Hernandez and Matt Beaty, who combined to go seven for eight with three home runs, five RBIs and five runs, before Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro and Joe Kelly authored the latest bullpen collapse in the seventh inning.

Ferguson, called up from triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday, sparked the peril by hitting Adam Haseley with a breaking ball and walking Roman Quinn. The left-hander was replaced by Floro, who struck out a batter and surrendered an RBI single before exiting. Kelly took his place as rain began pelting the ballpark again and allowed consecutive singles that scored three runs. Bryce Harper roped a line drive to right field. Rhys Hoskins hit a soft dribbler down the first-base line past a drawn-in infield for the go-ahead two-run single.


It was another reminder of the club’s clear weak link, a relief corps that has squandered leads at a rate that could impede their pursuit of a championship. The Dodgers are expected to address the bullpen by the July 31 trade deadline. Roberts was diplomatic about the need.

“I like the guys we got,” Roberts said. “So any bullpen can get better. There’s always room for improvement — in any part of your team. So, we just didn’t execute.”

The Dodgers asked season-ticket holders for their first payment for 2020 seats by Aug. 22. And, by the way, prices have gone up again.

The eventful trip’s first twist surfaced Sunday, when the Dodgers reversed a bullpen collapse to beat the Boston Red Sox in 12 innings to claim a series victory. The price was a game that lasted 5 hours 40 minutes, which led to the Dodgers checking into their hotel in Philadelphia at 4:30 a.m. Monday.

Roberts insisted his players would not submit to exhaustion, and they didn’t, clobbering the Phillies 16-2. On Tuesday, they stormed back from a five-run deficit in the ninth inning before closer Kenley Jansen squandered a two-run lead and admitted he should’ve removed himself from the game after taking a comebacker off his right ankle. Wednesday night’s game ended at 1:42 a.m. Thursday, after a rain delay of 2 hours 37 minutes, with a Dodgers win.

“For the guys that were part of the All-Star festivities, I mean, shoot, the coaches and players, this makes a long trip exponentially longer,” said Roberts, who managed the National League All-Star team, and had six players and his entire coaching staff with him in Cleveland. “So, yeah, this is as crazy as it’s been for me, personally.”

The weather forecast was not promising for a club yearning to get on a cross-country flight home. Rain began pounding the diamond in the second inning Thursday. Soon, thunder roared. As the bottom of the third inning got underway, lightning struck frighteningly close. Jean Segura, batting for the Phillies, flinched. The crowd gasped. On the mound, Ross Stripling thought the game would get delayed. The game continued.

The rain finally tapered off just before 2 p.m. Beaty and Hernandez then continued their unforeseen destruction of the Phillies. They slugged back-to-back home runs against Phillies ace right-hander Aaron Nola in the fourth inning. It was the ninth time the Dodgers slugged home runs in consecutive at-bats this season. Hernandez hit another in the fourth inning after Beaty singled, lining a two-run shot just over the left-field wall for his 16th home run this season.

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder A.J. Pollock is taking a relaxed approach since coming off the injured list last week.

In the sixth inning, Beaty hit a double to the right-center-field gap for his third hit off right-hander Fernando Salas before Hernandez smacked a single up the middle for the third of his career-high four hits. Beaty scored and the Dodgers led 5-3.

The lead vanished in the seventh inning. In the ninth, Alex Verdugo belted a two-out home run off Phillies closer Hector Neris to slice the deficit in half after David Freese struck out on a 3-2 pitch that appeared out of the strike zone. That brought up Justin Turner. He flied out, yielding an emotional response from Neris, who stared into the Dodgers’ dugout and, according to Max Muncy, cursed at them. On Tuesday, Neris plunked Freese with a fastball near the head in the ninth inning after giving up a go-ahead, three-run home run to Beaty. Major League Baseball deemed the act intentional and levied a three-game suspension. Neris appealed and was allowed to pitch.

“He’s blown about eight saves against us over the last two years,” Muncy said. “I guess he was just finally excited that he got one. Whatever.”

Befuddled, the Dodgers reacted with anger from their dugout, but the episode didn’t escalate.