Brandon League Blows Fourth Save of the Season, Dodgers Lose to Diamondbacks 5-4

On Monday night, what looked to be a 3-1 Los Angeles Dodgers victory quickly dissolved in the ninth inning due to Brandon League‘s inability to nail down the save, turning a probable victory into a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

D-Backs starter Wade Miley got off to a rough start in the first inning: he walked Mark Ellis on four pitches before retiring Adrian Gonzalez on a fly to right, setting up newly-christened N.L. Player of the Week Yasiel Puig for his first at-bat since being christened the N.L. Player of the Week. Puig promptly lined a single to right, raising his blazing batting average to .483. That was followed by an RBI single from Jerry Hairston Jr., giving L.A. a 1-0 lead before the inning ended on an Andre Ethier lineout to right.

Kershaw allowed Arizona to answer back quickly in the second, as an RBI single from Miguel Montero scored Cody Ross, who had led off the inning with a double to left.

In the top of the fourth, Kershaw reflexively nabbed a comeback line drive off the bat of Cliff Pennington that was hit about as hard as a baseball can be hit – eliciting oohs and ahhs from the crowd.

Puig cracked another hit in the bottom of the inning, improving his average to a pedestrian .500  – but was gunned down at third by an absolute laser of a throw from right fielder Gerardo Parra, fielding a single from Hairston. An RBI double from Juan Uribe made it 2-1 Dodgers, prompting Arizona to intentionally walk Tim Federowicz in order to face Kershaw…which proved to be a good idea, as Miley got Kershaw on a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

In the fifth, Mark Ellis crushed a solo home run to left, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1 (and improving his gaudy numbers against Miley to the tune of 10-20 with 4 home runs).

After putting two runners on base in the seventh, Kershaw found his way out of the threat, ending the inning and his night with a line of 7 IP 6H 1ER 2BB 5K.

Charles Brewer came on for Arizona in the bottom of the inning, making his Major League debut hours after being recalled by the Dbacks. Federowicz greeted Brewer with a first-pitch drive deep into right field, but Parra crashed into the wall for a highlight-worthy catch to rob him of extra bases.

Kenley Jansen came on in the eighth to replace Kershaw and mowed down Willie Bloomquist, Paul Goldschmidt and Ross (who came into the AB 3-3 on the night). In the bottom half, the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs thanks to singles from Ellis (his third of the night), Gonzalez and Puig (also his third of the night), but failed to score – Hairston grounded into what was called a double play, even though he was clearly safe at first. Tony Sipp came in to face Ethier and retired him on a fly to center to end the threat.

Dodgers closer Brandon League struck out Montero to lead off the ninth but then got into trouble: he gave up a two-strike single to Martin Prado and a double to Parra, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Pinch hitter Jason Kubel drove in Prado with an infield single, and a walk to pinch hitter Didi Gregorius loaded the bases for Pollock.

League then retired Pollock on a pop up to Ellis, but Bloomquist lined a two-out single up the middle for two runs, shooting Arizona in front 4-3, depriving Kershaw of the win and wrapping up the blown save. Peter Moylan was greeted with an RBI single from Goldschmidt, pushing Arizona’s lead to 5-3.

Heath Bell came in for the save and made things interesting: Juan Uribe clubbed a home run leading off the inning, Federowicz doubled off the glove of Parra and suddenly L.A. had the tying run at second and nobody out. An error from Prado on Skip Schumaker‘s sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners, but Punto popped out for the first out. Mark Ellis struck out for the second out, setting up a showdown between Bell and Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzo hit a comebacker, ending the threat, the game, and stranding Puig on deck.

After the game, Don Mattingly had some things to say regarding the fans’ booing of League – and of himself, after he made the pitching change:

“If he gets his outs, they’re cheering for him – but if he doesn’t, it’s a bad decision”.

As for his decision to leave League in after he got into trouble:

“He’s our closer. He’s been the guy.”

With the loss, the Dodgers drop to 27-36, while Arizona improves to 36-28. League is now 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA, and Monday’s meltdown was his fourth blown save of 2013.

L.A. will try to end the skid tomorrow night, when Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.89 ERA) will take the hill against Ian Kennedy (3-4, 5.72 ERA).

Pregame notes:

  • Matt Kemp, on his current D.L. stint: “I don’t want to be labeled as that guy who’s always hurt but it’s starting to look like that” – but Don Mattingly made it sound as if Kemp’s time off the field could be ending soon, perhaps as quickly as the team’s next road trip.
  • A.J. Ellis, sidelined with an oblique injury, is eyeing a possible return to active duty on Friday when the Dodgers open a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

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