Craig Kimbrel’s blown save costs Dodgers four-game sweep of Padres

There was a comeback, then a backbreaker.

Thirty-five innings of lifeless baseball from the San Diego Padres’ lineup this weekend, then an unlucky inning from the Dodgers’ bullpen Sunday afternoon.

The Dodgers might have won the four-game series against their division rivals, but they still missed an opportunity for a potentially massive midseason sweep Sunday by squandering a late lead in the weekend’s Finals and losing 4-2 to 42,633 Dodgers -Stadion.

Craig Kimbrel gave up crucial runs and blew out his third save from the last seven opportunities after Jake Cronenworth found on a line drive that pierced Kimbrel in the back, Luke Voit hit a game-changing double left of the top of the wall and Eric Hosmer nailed a go-ahead single.

Dodgers relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel gathers his composure after being hit by a line drive.

Dodgers relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel gathers his composure after being hit by a line drive in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Yency Almonte handed a two-run home run to Ha-Seong Kim later in the inning after Kimbrel left the game next to a coach.

The Dodgers then failed in a final comeback attempt, putting the tie on the plate twice in the last two at-bats of the game but failed to capitalize on a day when they had 11 men stranded on base.

“Unfortunately,” said manager Dave Roberts, “we couldn’t end up putting them away there.”

When Kimbrel showed up early in the ninth inning, the Dodgers (49-29) were 1-0 up and on the brink of a nearly flawless weekend.

They had beaten the Padres (47-34) in their first three games, creating the long-awaited split in the National League West table.

Their lineup had got Mookie Betts back, who returned with a bang from a rib injury on Sunday by going two for three with two walks and two runs scored.

And their pitching staff had been dominant, limiting the Padres to four runs in the first three games — then shutting them out for the first eight innings on Sunday behind a seven-inning jewel by Clayton Kershaw.

But then things changed on a 100.5 mph line ride that hit Kimbrel right in the back.

Kimbrel caught the ball, but not in time to get Cronenworth out at first base. Kimbrel briefly squatted in pain before resurfacing, throwing a few practice pitches in front of a trainer and staying in the game.

“There was thought [to taking him out]’ said Roberts. “But a guy like that, when he says he can go ahead and throw a few pitches, we liked what we saw.”

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw plays against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw threw seven innings of shutout against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The good feeling wouldn’t last.

On the next swing, Voit launched a moonshot to the left that landed on the top of the wall in front of the Dodgers’ bullpen, rebounding from outfielder Gavin Lux with an unusual side carom and allowing Cronenworth to run home and level the score.

Hosmer then delivered a punch in the gut and carried an RBI single into right field, giving the Padres their first lead since the first inning of Thursday’s opening game of the series.

Kimbrel didn’t throw another pitch and exited alongside a trainer when Almonte was called out of the bullpen.

Afterwards, Roberts said the scans on Kimbrel’s back were clean, but that the right-handers would be out for the next few days.

As for Kimbrel’s role as closer, Roberts said he “isn’t even considering” a move, despite a recent 15-game stretch in which Kimbrel posted a 6.28 ERA.

“I think he deserved that,” Roberts said, adding that given the other injuries in the bullpen, it was “still pretty easy” to hold Kimbrel in the ninth inning.

The Dodgers also viewed this weekend as positive.

They extended their division lead from 1 ½ games to 3 ½ games.

Their four starting pitchers gave up three runs together in 24 ⅔ innings.

And they brought their lineup back to full strength, presenting a new batting order on Sunday that saw Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman finish second and third, respectively, behind Betts on the seed for the first time this season.

“I thought it went pretty well today,” said Turner, who played three-for-four with an RBI.

The only problem:

“I just didn’t get the win,” Turner said, adding, “We missed one today, but we just went about our business for the most part. It is what it is. It’s a good team over there too. It’s not like we’re just giving away games. They kept competing and clawing back in.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-03/dodgers-craig-kimbrel-blown-save-padres-clayton-kershaw Craig Kimbrel’s blown save costs Dodgers four-game sweep of Padres

Emma Bowman

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