Brandon League can’t hold ninth-inning lead, Dodgers fall, 5-4

Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis can't get to a ball hit for a single by Arizona Diamondbacks' Josh Wilson during the ninth inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Brandon League shuffled off the mound. The save had been blown. The boos were pretty loud.

Don Mattingly handed the ball to the new reliever, and then the Dodgers manager headed back to the dugout by himself. The boos were even louder.

On what might be the most discouraging night in a season full of them, the Dodgers’ beleaguered closer blew a two-run lead with two outs to go, negating a fine start by Clayton Kershaw. The Arizona Diamondbacks rallied for four runs in the ninth inning, escaping with a 5-4 victory and leaving fans to boo the manager, all the while wondering how long Mattingly can continue to use League anywhere in a close game, let alone in the ninth inning.


BOX SCORE: Arizona 5, Dodgers 4

“If he gets his outs, they’re cheering for him,” Mattingly said. “If he doesn’t get his outs, it’s a bad decision. That’s the way it is. I understand it.

“I’m trying to put people in the best position to get the job done. Brandon did the job in the past. If he gets his outs, it goes forward and nobody says anything.

“As soon as he didn’t get his outs, it’s my fault he didn’t get his outs.”

The Dodgers might be in last place in the National League West, but they were two outs from climbing to within 61/2 games of the first-place Diamondbacks, with Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu lined up to pitch the final two games of the series. The Dodgers could have gone home dreaming about closing to within 41/2 games of Arizona by Wednesday, dreaming of a pennant race even though they have not seen the .500 mark since April.

It would be easy to say the fan discontent with Mattingly revolves around his insistence that League is his closer. Except that, after the game, Mattingly said he had not even committed to using League in the ninth inning Monday.

Mattingly used Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning, against the heart of the Arizona lineup. If the Diamondbacks’ best hitters had been due up in the ninth inning, Mattingly said he would have used League in the eighth and Jansen in the ninth.

The Dodgers’ bullpen has 15 losses, tied with the Houston Astros for most in the major leagues. League has converted 13 of 17 save opportunities, but his earned-run average is 6.00. No other active Dodgers pitcher has an ERA above 4.00.

Mattingly said he had not decided whether he would continue to use League as a closer.

“It’s a tough time to make a decision 12 minutes after the game,” Mattingly said.

However, Mattingly said there was a difference between League’s performance all season and his performance Monday.

“I’m not sitting here trying to defend Brandon at this point,” Mattingly said. “For the most part, Brandon has been saving games.”

Yasiel Puig did not hit a home run Monday, but he had three hits, lifting his batting average to .500 after eight major league games.

League took a 3-1 lead into the top of the ninth inning, and he got the first out. But five of the next six batters reached base, with Willie Bloomquist’s single driving in the tying and go-ahead runs.

Mattingly defended his use of League in the ninth inning by citing matchups. The first three Arizona batters in the ninth were 0 for 5 against League, five for 10 against Jansen.

“Solid decision,” Mattingly said. “The fact a solid decision doesn’t work, it’s a bad decision.” Shaikin