Dodgers blow another late lead, are swept by Braves with 5-2 loss
ATLANTA – Clayton Kershaw will pitch for the Dodgers in their series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday at Miller Park.
If he wants to win, he should probably be prepared to pitch nine innings, maybe even more.
Over the last three days, the last-place Dodgers went into the late innings leading the Atlanta Braves. They lost all three times, including Sunday, when Brandon League’s spectacular eighth-inning meltdown sent them crashing to a 5-2 defeat.
League was the third Dodgers reliever to turn a lead into a decisive deficit in the three-game series at Turner Field, following Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen.
The defeat marked the 13th game lost by the Dodgers’ bullpen, the most in the major leagues.
“We just have to get better,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “Hopefully, we can get guys rested, try to get roles reset. We’ve been kind of in a little bit of disorder out there.”
But Mattingly said it would be wrong to blame the sweep entirely on the bullpen, noting the Dodgers had only three hits Sunday. That was one more than they had Saturday.
“We’re not giving ourselves any breathing room and we’re asking a lot out of our guys,” Mattingly said. “We’re asking them to be perfect.”
Both of the Dodgers’ runs were scored by Carl Crawford and driven in by Adrian Gonzalez. The only other player to get a hit was Matt Kemp.
League inherited a 2-1 edge and two baserunners when he replaced Jansen in the eighth inning.
The game unraveled swiftly. Third baseman Juan Uribe tried to barehand a sacrifice bunt by Andrelton Simmons but couldn’t, resulting in an error that loaded the bases.
The next batter, pinch hitter Gerald Laird, singled sharply to right field to drive in Freddie Freeman and tie the score, 2-2. A sacrifice fly by Ramiro Pena knocked in B.J. Upton to give the Braves their first lead of the game at 3-2.
The Braves added two more runs, on a single by Chris Johnson and a squeeze play by Jordan Schafer.
Suddenly, the Dodgers were down, 5-2.
What made this loss particularly heartbreaking was that the Dodgers had pitched their way out of three previous jams.
Starting pitcher Matt Magill gave up a run in the fifth inning that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1 but struck out Jason Heyward in the inning to leave men stranded at first and second.
Ronald Belisario forced pinch hitter Evan Gattis to ground out with men on first and second for the final out of the sixth inning.
Jansen struck out Justin Upton with men on first and second to get out of the seventh inning.
“We just hit a wall,” Mattingly said.
Jansen, who gave up a go-ahead home run to Gattis the previous night, started the eighth inning by giving up a hit to Freeman. He plunked Brian McCann to put men on first and second.
In came League, who had given up eight runs in his last eight appearances.
If League had pitched his way out of trouble in the eighth inning, Mattingly said, he would have turned to Matt Guerrier to pitch the ninth inning. Guerrier has given up only one run in 71/3 innings over his last eight appearances but has had mixed results in high-leverage situations.
Ted Lilly could be activated from the disabled list Monday and added to the bullpen. Asked whether there were any other potential reinforcements in the farm system, Mattingly named sidelined left-hander Scott Elbert and triple-A right-hander Chris Withrow.
Elbert, who is still recovering from a pair of off-season elbow operations, is on a minor league rehabilitation assignment with double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.). Withrow gave up four runs Sunday.
“We had guys get away early who seemed to fit,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly appeared to be referring to Kevin Gregg, who was in spring-training camp on a minor league contract but was cut. When Gregg refused to report to triple A, the Dodgers released him. He is now closing for the Chicago Cubs and hasn’t given up a run in 11 appearances.
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