Dodgers let opportunity slip away in eighth-inning collapse: ‘Wasn’t good’


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SAN DIEGO — One can hardly consider this place a house of horrors, but the wound is still fresh. The Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated at Petco Park, losing just once in this stadium since the seventh inning of Game 4 last October and just four times in their past 14 regular-season games here. For much of the time since, it’s been easy to see the dichotomy between these teams, the apparent rot that has left nearly a 10-win gap between clubs expected to jockey for the division.

But Saturday night was a role reversal. A harkening back to a year ago, when another late lead spiraled away in the late innings and ended the Dodgers’ historic season after just four postseason games. The stakes were smaller this time. The jarring collapse still stung, as the Dodgers watched a winnable game break down in a seven-run eighth inning, leading to an eventual 8-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers’ implosion had a potpourri of scapegoats. Yency Almonte rapidly lost his feel for his sweeper, and with it his ability to locate much, if anything, for strikes.

“He just wasn’t good,” Roberts said. “Just completely lost command.”

Caleb Ferguson entered with the bases loaded and got the groundball he needed from Juan Soto, but he struggled to put adhesive on the wound after Kiké Hernández sprinted from second base. Ferguson sprawled and attempted an ill-advised desperation flip to Freddie Freeman at first base that trickled away into the home dugout and allowed San Diego to level what had been a 3-1 edge.

“That was the plan,” Hernández said of trying to get at least one out on the play. “But I just threw it away.”

The game collapsed from there.

Ferguson retired just one of the seven batters he faced, allowing the evening to spiral on Manny Machado’s go-ahead two-run single past a brought-in infield and throwing away a chance at a breather when he airmailed a simple pickoff throw to Freeman and allowed Machado to rumble all the way to third.

It was a comedy of errors and self-inflicted chaos, an unmooring for a club that had won four in a row and allowed San Diego to implode in similar fashion just a night earlier. The Dodgers didn’t throw strikes. They threw the ball away. They couldn’t stop the bleeding.

Ferguson and Almonte exited the clubhouse before reporters were allowed in after the game; the room vacated as quickly as the lead that had slipped away.

“We just couldn’t minimize damage,” Roberts said.

A trade deadline after which the Dodgers raved about their depth is still lacking impact. Saturday showed some of the benefits, as the Dodgers deftly deployed Michael Grove as an opener for the newly acquired Ryan Yarbrough to outpitch NL Cy Young contender Blake Snell, combining for 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball while San Diego’s left-hander needed 108 pitches to get through five. Los Angeles had matched things up enough to enter the eighth inning with a two-run advantage. That deteriorated, even as the Dodgers lined up the rest of their relief corps the way they’d wanted.

“When you have a guy (in Almonte) that’s fresh and you feel like it’s a great lane for him, it’s up to those guys to do their jobs, too,” Roberts said. “You can’t throw Evan (Phillips) in the eighth and ninth inning every night. You can’t throw (Ryan) Brasier every night. (Brusdar) Graterol, the same. I felt good about him going out there, and we have to do a job.”

As the Dodgers have settled on Phillips as their closer, they are still searching for an appropriate bridge to arrive for him. The club’s lone deadline bullpen acquisition, Joe Kelly, was unavailable Saturday. The in-house options have inspired more confidence in recent weeks. They are far from the unit that floundered to the bottom of the National League in ERA in early June. But Saturday showed why that faith should still be tenuous, at best.

Almonte’s season has been an exercise of polar extremes that has inflated his ERA to 5.36. Ferguson has emerged as a sturdy eighth-inning guy but has allowed runs in consecutive outings. The Dodgers were without Kelly and had already deployed Graterol for four outs. Roberts said he’s being mindful of their workload, along with that of Brasier, who has allowed three runs (two earned) in 19 innings since emerging as a midseason minor-league signing.

“It’s pretty easy in my chair,” Roberts said of a bullpen hierarchy he still considers stable. “You give guys opportunities, and they play themselves into their own roles. I’ll leave it at that.”

Saturday presented an opportunity to earn at least a split in San Diego and stifle what was left of the Padres’ disappointing summer. Friday’s rousing Dodgers comeback had seemed to be a breaking point. Until Los Angeles handed it right back with a hint of deja vu.

“I think tonight they’re feeling pretty good about themselves, like we felt last night,” Roberts said.

(Photo of Dave Roberts and Yency Almonte: Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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