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J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson let big lead get away in loss to Cubs

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers offensive barrage continued with an early 6-1 lead but it wasn't enough. J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson combined to blow it in the Cubs' 8-7 win over the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Chris Coghlan reached base five times for the Cubs, including two home runs and a double, and hit the decisive two-run blast off Brian Wilson, who is still allowed to pitch in the eighth inning for some reason. Wilson topped out at 88 mph in the eighth inning, which makes his 85 mph "changeup" (as classified by MLB Gameday) that Coghlan hit out unsurprisingly ineffective.

Granted, Wilson had nine straight scoreless appearances, all in the eighth inning or later, totaling 6 innings before Saturday's debacle, but he also only struck out just four of 23 batters faced during that span. His velocity has been down, and has basically been lucky. In April this season, when Wilson went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation he described being able to get hitters out as "a coin flip."

That's essentially what it feels like now, but the Dodgers finally saw their luck run out.

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run home run to right field in the first inning, then a three-run shot to left center field in the third inning, helping to chase starter Felix Doubront after just seven outs. It was the fourth game with at least five RBI this season by Gonzalez, who took over the major league lead in RBI with 111.

The only two Los Angeles Dodgers to lead the the National League in RBI are Tommy Davis (153 in 1962) and Matt Kemp (126 in 2011). Both also led the majors.

Gonzalez wasn't alone.

Dee Gordon had two more hits and scored a run, tying Duke Snider in 1959 for the most consecutive games by a Los Angeles Dodger with multiple hits. Gordon was also successful once in his two stolen base attempts, giving him 64 steals on the season. That major-league-leading total is also tied with Juan Pierre in 2007 for fourth-most by an L.A. Dodger.

Yasiel Puig went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and two runs scored, and in six career games at Wrigley Field is hitting .565 (13-for-23) with nine runs scored. He also made this amazing catch to rob Jorge Soler of extra bases in the fifth inning.

GIF per Daniel Brim of Dodger Digest

The Dodgers built a 6-1 lead, one that Roberto Hernandez couldn't utilize the benefits of as he couldn't record an out in the fifth inning for his fourth short start in four tries in September, totaling 15 innings this month.

No Dodgers starter in the last six games has lasted past five innings, with the bullpen throwing 27⅔ innings during that span. And this is before a scheduled bullpen game on Sunday.

They are all bullpen games for the Dodgers lately, and on Saturday that meant bad news.

The lead was up to 7-2 in the seventh, when J.P. Howell had his worst outing of the year. After a walk and a pair of singles cut the Dodgers' lead to 7-3, Arismendy Alcantara unloaded into the bleachers in left field for a three-run home run to pull Chicago within one run.

It was the first home run allowed by Howell this season, and the second straight poor outing for Howell, who before Friday hadn't pitched in nine days. In his first 64 appearances this season Howell allowed seven runs, six earned. In the last two days, he has allowed six runs.

Up next

The Dodgers go for series win at Wrigley Field on Sunday, when they will send a gaggle of pitchers in a bullpen game beginning with Jamey Wright, facing Jacob Turner for the Cubs.

Saturday particulars

Home runs: Adrian Gonzalez 2 (25); Chris Coghlan 2 (8), Arismendy Alcantara (10)

WP - Justin Grimm (5-3): 1 IP, 1 walk

LP - Brian Wilson (2-4): ⅔ IP, 3 hits, 2 runs

Sv - Hector Rendon (26): 1 IP, 1 strikeout