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Dodgers leads evaporate in extra-inning loss to Rockies

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LA falls to 1-9 in extra innings

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Dodgers blew three leads, displayed shoddy defense, had a rare blown save by Kenley Jansen, and extra innings reared their ugly head again on Sunday at Coors Field. Charlie Blackmon homered off Phil Bickford in the 10th inning, giving the Rockies a 6-5 win, preventing a weekend sweep with the Dodgers’ ninth loss in 10 extra-inning affairs this season.

The final three innings were a scramble, with the Dodgers regaining the lead in the eighth inning on a two-run Will Smith home run, a lined shot down the left field line, the Dodgers’ seventh home run of the three-game series.

Jansen allowed a leadoff double to Ryan McMahon in the ninth, then Chris Owings singled him home for the equalizer. It marked just the third blown save in 24 attempts this season for Jansen, and his first since May 5.

With Albert Pujols starting the 10th inning as the free runner on second base, Smith’s two-out single scored the winning run for the Dodgers. It was the fourth single hit with Pujols on second base this season, and the first time he scored. Smith drove in three runs on Sunday, giving him seven RBI in his two games played over the weekend.

But it wasn’t enough in the bottom of the frame, with a pair of fly balls against Bickford advancing the free runner home to tie things before Blackmon’s walk-off with two outs.

Error of their ways

Outside of Max Muncy, and possibly Smith depending on the metric, the Dodgers defense has been pretty bad this season, with several players rated below average in the SABR defensive index, a collection of five different statistics that account for a quarter of Gold Glove Award voting.

On Sunday the Rockies scored the tying and winning runs on plays that should have been made. The first, a popup in the infield with two outs in the fifth, was dropped by Chris Taylor.

In the seventh, a 100.4-mph grounder by Matt Adams caromed off Turner’s glove for the go-ahead run. The play wasn’t called an error, though the RBI single could have been at least one out, if not an inning-ending double play.

“The defense has been inconsistent, all season,” manager Dave Roberts said. “When you give teams extra outs, it’s hard to overcome.”

Stretching out

David Price continued to inch closer to being a full-fledged member of the starting rotation. He lasted four innings on Sunday, one more inning than his last start, which was one more inning than his outing before that. Price, who has said many times this season he’s willing to pitch in any role the team asks of him, on Sunday lasted longer into a game than he has since July 30, 2019, with Boston.

Getting through four seemed precarious after a 22-pitch first, with the Rockies plating a run on a pair of singles, an inning that was extended by an error at third base by Turner. But Price settled down after the error, allowing only a walk the rest of the way, getting through four innings on 66 pitches.

Since returning from a hamstring injury in May, Price has a 2.16 ERA and 2.45 FIP in 25 innings, with 24 strikeouts, six walks, and no home runs allowed. In July, Price has allowed one run in nine innings, with 10 strikeouts.

Whatever the Dodgers have asked of Price, he’s delivered.

Price helped himself in the third inning with a leadoff nubber that died in the grass about 40 feet up the third base line, the fifth hit of Price’s career and his first with the Dodgers. Three batters late, Turner hit a ball considerably farther, 399 feet and over the high wall in right field for a two-run home run that gave the Dodgers the lead.

Turner’s homer also scored Price, the first time he’s scored a run in the majors, minors, or college.

Grinding

In a lineup that leads the National League in runs scored, on-base percentage, and wRC+, two that stand out as struggling are Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux. Roberts this weekend in separate media sessions used the same terms to describe both hitters: “He’s grinding.”

Bellinger was inserted into the leadoff spot on Sunday with Mookie Betts and his irritated hip out, just the third time Bellinger started a game batting first. The idea was to get Bellinger as many looks as possible against Rockies starter Jon Gray, against whom he was 11-for-18 with five doubles, a triple, four walks, and one strikeout entering Sunday.

“When Cody was really good, in 2019, he was a hitter first and the slug followed. He was using left center, the middle of the field, right center. Then with breaking balls in the zone, he would slug those to the pull side,” Roberts said before Sunday’s game. “If he could go back to being a hit collector, using both gaps, I think that’s a great start.”

Bellinger collected none of those hits, instead going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and two infield popouts against Gray, swinging through four fastballs and a slider. On the season, Bellinger is hitting just .168/.284/.282, a 63 wRC+, and in July he’s 5-for-52 (.096) with one extra-base hit, six walks, and 16 strikeouts.

Gray lasted seven innings, allowing only two runs, striking out seven.

Lux has been up and down all year offensively. He rebounded with a 128 wRC+ in May but has been well below average in every other month. Since June 1, Lux is hitting .202/.317/.282, including 0-for-4 on Sunday.

“When he’s using the middle of the field, he’s very dangerous. It allows for more plate coverage and he can handle more pitches,” Roberts said Saturday. “When he starts to pull the baseball too much, I think it exposes him, like any hitter.”

To add injury to insult, immediately after grounding into an out in the ninth inning, Lux grabbed his left hamstring and left the game.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: Justin Turner (16), Will Smith (11); Charlie Blackmon (5)

WP — Mychal Givens (3-2): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

LP — Phil Bickford (0-1): ⅔ IP, 1 hit, 2 runs (1 earned)

Up next

The Dodgers return to Dodger Stadium for a seven-game homestand, starting with four against the rival Giants, a battle between teams with the two best records in baseball. Tony Gonsolin starts for the Dodgers in Monday’s series opener (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), facing off against Kevin Gausman.