Reporting from Chicago
The Dodgers were hitting.
The Dodgers were hitting.
But the baseball gods are sadists. They take perverse pleasure in torturing unevenly constructed teams such as the Dodgers, unburdening them of one handicap only to cripple them with another.
On a Saturday when their once-paralyzed offense erased a four-run deficit and pushed them into the lead, the Dodgers watched their top-performing reliever melt and send them spiraling to a 10-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Matt Guerrier, the Dodgers' $12-million setup man who hadn't given up any runs in his previous nine games, inherited an 8-5 lead but was charged with five runs in an eighth-inning deluge. Washed away were the Dodgers' three home runs, as well as a two-run, go-ahead double by Andre Ethier that extended his hitting streak to 20 games.
"It's a tough loss after battling back, getting ahead and being in the driver's seat there in the eighth," Guerrier said.
The failures of the Dodgers' pitchers and the triumphs of their hitters were likely exaggerated by the infamous microclimate of Wrigley Field. At the time of the first pitch, the wind was blowing out to right field at 12 mph.
"If that wind's blowing out, you're never really safe," Manager Don Mattingly said. "They found it out early, we found it out late."
Both Lilly and Dempster were hit hard.
Lilly was pounded for four hits in a three-run fourth inning that put the Cubs ahead, 5-1. The left-hander was charged with five runs and 11 hits in 41/3 innings.
But the Dodgers pulled to within 5-4 an inning later on home runs by Casey Blake and Matt Kemp.
Rod Barajas tied the score with a home run in the sixth inning. With two outs and men at the corners, Manager Mike Quade replaced Dempster with left-hander Sean Marshall to face the left-handed-hitting Ethier.
Ethier, who began the game batting .217 against left-handers, doubled to right field. Two runs scored. The Dodgers were up, 7-5.
The Dodgers increased their lead to 8-5 in the seventh inning when Barajas grounded out to drive in Jerry Sands.
Guerrier pitched the bottom half of that inning and did so with his usual efficiency, retiring the side on seven pitches.
That prompted Mattingly to send Guerrier out for the eighth inning.
Two runs scored on a single by Starlin Castro. Another scored when Darwin Barney grounded into a force out.
Guerrier exited with two outs and men at the corners, giving way to Blake Hawksworth, who promptly gave up a two-run double to Jeff Baker.
"I probably shouldn't have sent Guerrier back out," Mattingly said, pointing to how Guerrier threw 25 pitches Thursday.
But Mattingly doesn't have many options. The bullpen has a collective earned-run average of 5.94, second worst in baseball.
Lilly blamed himself for the defeat, noting that his inability to pitch deeper into the game forced Mattingly to go to the bullpen sooner than he wanted.
This marked the fifth time in 10 appearances that Guerrier has been asked to pitch more than an inning. That was something he did 13 times last season.
"It's one of those things where you go through stretches where sometimes you get a little more work and sometimes you go a week without getting much work at all," Guerrier said. "It's the ups and downs of a long season."