Dodgers lose to Rockies again, miss on prime chance to close gap on Giants
For the second time in three days, a San Francisco Giants loss to the Atlanta Braves was posted on the right-field scoreboard for most of a game in Chavez Ravine, teasing, almost taunting the Dodgers in their third base dugout.
Another rare chance to gain ground on the National League West-leading Giants with a win over fourth-place Colorado was there for the taking, and the Dodgers let it slip through their hands. Again.
A decision to pitch to one of baseball’s hottest hitters with first base open backfired when C.J. Cron crushed a three-run homer in the first inning, and right-hander Antonio Senzatela blanked the Dodgers on two hits for seven innings Sunday to lead the Rockies to a 5-0 victory before 37,569 in Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers remain 2 ½ games back with 31 games left, and have plenty of time to overtake the Giants, but they can’t keep wasting opportunities the way they did this weekend in losing two of three to the worst road team in baseball and scoring seven runs while hitting .184 (16 for 87) in the three games.
MLB’s playoff format means the Dodgers could face the very real prospect of being relegated to a wild-card playoff contest even if they win 100 games.
“This series offensively was pretty frustrating, and the byproduct is we didn’t gain a couple of games when we had opportunities,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Regardless of how [the Giants] play, if we’re not putting good at-bats together, building innings and finishing those innings, then it’s all moot.”
Senzatela entered with a 2-9 record and 4.42 ERA this season, and a 7.08 career ERA against the Dodgers, but threw what he called “the best game of my life” on Sunday, retiring 12 straight batters to open the game and escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth and a two-on, no-out jam in the seventh.
The odds of a comeback appeared so long to Roberts that after using five pitchers — Brusdar Graterol, Justin Bruihl, Joe Kelly, Shane Greene and Kenley Jansen — in relief of Mitch White’s 3 1/3-inning start, he turned to third baseman Justin Turner to pitch the ninth inning of a 5-0 game.
The deficit seemed too small for an important position player to pitch, but with the Dodgers using four relievers in Friday night’s “bullpen game” and nine in Wednesday night’s 16-inning win at San Diego, Roberts wanted to stay away from Blake Treinen, Alex Vesia, Phil Bickford and Corey Knebel in a likely loss.
Turner gave up two singles in a scoreless inning in which he threw 10 pitches — nine for strikes — and received a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout.
“Down 5-0, with three hits through eight innings, the chances of coming back to win [are slim], so to use a leverage guy in the ninth, I didn’t feel good about that,” Roberts said. “I talked to Justin, and he was on board with saving the pen. That speaks to him being a leader, taking it for the team, to save a leverage guy.”
Brendan Rodgers sparked Colorado’s first-inning rally with a one-out single to left, and he took third on Charlie Blackmon’s double to right. Trevor Story flied to shallow right for the second out, the runners holding.
Up stepped Cron, who entering Sunday with a .378 average (31 for 82), nine homers and a major league-leading .793 slugging percentage and 30 RBIs in August. On deck was the left-handed-hitting Rio Ruiz, who entered with a .178 average, three homers and seven RBIs on the season.
Will Smith hit a go-ahead, two-run single in a three-run eighth inning for the Dodgers, who finally cashed in walks and beat the Colorado Rockies 5-2.
White said he tried to throw a 2-and-1 fastball “up and in, and it just leaked over the middle.” Cron sent a 111-mph missile into the left-field seats for a 3-0 lead. Ruiz grounded weakly to second to end the inning.
“I didn’t consider it,” Roberts said, when asked about walking Cron intentionally. “It’s the first inning, there’s two outs, and I understand how hot he is. … I just felt like the plan was to be more careful with Cron, and we just made a mistake. We didn’t execute, and he took advantage of it.”
The Rockies tacked on two runs off Kelly in the seventh. Blackmon walked, Story doubled to left, snapping an 0-for-24 slump, and Cron was walked intentionally to load the bases. Ruiz hit a sacrifice fly to right, and Story scored on Greene’s wild pitch for a 5-0 lead.
“It’s not ideal to lose a series at home,” Roberts said. “I felt like we had some good momentum [after a three-game sweep in San Diego] and were playing good baseball, but we got out-pitched, outplayed, whatever you want to call it, in this series.”
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