Dodgers get burned by Upton shot

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Melvin Upton Jr. No.2 of the San Diego Padres hits a walk-off home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PETCO Park on May 20, in San Diego, California. AFP PHOTO

Melvin Upton Jr. No.2 of the San Diego Padres hits a walk-off home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PETCO Park on May 20, in San Diego, California. AFP PHOTO

SAN DIEGO: Melvin Upton Jr. hit a two-run homer off Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning to give the San Diego Padres a stunning 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

Jansen was going for a four-out save but he wound up with his first blown save of the year.

Justin Turner’s two-run homer in the eighth had given the Dodgers a 6-5 lead. As Turner’s line drive of a homer cleared the right-field fence at Petco Park, Carl Crawford braked as he reached third base. Then he caught a signal from third-base coach Chris Woodward: Go home. The ball was gone.

Surprise was an understandable reaction. Turner had hit only one home run this season. He had yet to reclaim the form he displayed in 2014 and 2015. And dispiriting losses had become the norm for these Dodgers, who looked en route to another defeat caused by Scott Kazmir.


In giving up five runs in 52/3 innings, Kazmir failed to build on an encouraging effort last week against St. Louis. Facing a much less potent offense, Kazmir acted either unwilling or unable to locate pitches. In fewer than six innings, Kazmir walked nearly twice as many batters as Clayton Kershaw has (four) in 70 innings. He looked stricken after a pinch-hit, two-run homer by Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt gave San Diego the lead in the sixth.

The outcome seemed decided, even after a rare night of offensive production from Yasiel Puig. He singled and scored a run in the fourth. An inning later, he provided a two-run homer. The Dodgers’ offense stayed dormant until Turner laced a fastball at the waist from San Diego reliever Brandon Maurer.

Turner allowed his team to save face. The Dodgers embarrassed the Padres during the first weekend of the season here, outscoring their guests, 25-0. The subsequent weeks showed the gap between the clubs was not that wide. The Dodgers went 18-21 across the next 39 games; the Padres went 17-22.

The ongoing travails of the pitching staff placed added interest on the minor leagues. In Rancho Cucamonga, Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up a pair of home runs to class-A hitters, but still completed three innings. It was his second rehabilitation start as he returns from shoulder surgery. He could be ready by late June.

A more intriguing outing occurred in Oklahoma City. Julio Urias lengthened his streak of scoreless triple-A innings to 27. He struck out five and yielded three hits. Every five days, Urias lowers his earned-run average and heightens expectations for his eventual major league debut — whenever his employers deem the situation right.

The team’s continuous caution with Urias may be approaching a point of diminishing returns. The big league pitching staff aches for sustenance, with the rotation and the bullpen dragging in recent days.

Kazmir dumped his club into a two-run hole in Friday’s second inning. He dug the ditch with his own hands. Kazmir issued a one-out walk to third baseman Brett Wallace, a .213 hitter on the season, and hit Alexei Ramirez, a shortstop with a .268 on-base percentage, with a cutter.

A passed ball by A.J. Ellis moved both runners into scoring position. So after Kazmir struck out outfielder Jose Pirela, Manager Dave Roberts ordered an intentional walk of Adam Rosales. The decision loaded the bases for rookie pitcher Christian Friedrich.

Kazmir got Friedrich into an 0-2 count, but could not put him away. Relying solely on his fastball, Kazmir let the count draw even. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, he pumped a 91-mph fastball down the middle. Friedrich cracked it into center field for a two-run single.

The Dodgers cut the deficit in half in the third. Enrique Hernandez supplied a leadoff double. It was his first hit against a left-handed pitcher since his three-hit night against San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner on April 15. Corey Seager pounded an elevated fastball into right for an RBI double.

Puig had stranded the bases loaded in the first inning, but he remained aggressive in his second at-bat. Friedrich floated a first-pitch curveball. Puig ripped a single. His legs would soon carry him into the spotlight.

Yasmani Grandal followed Puig by winning an eight-pitch tussle with Friedrich. Grandal hit a changeup into the left-field gap. Charging to his left, Upton cut off the baseball, but Puig still chugged around third to tie the score.

Puig returned to the plate in the fifth. After a single by Trayce Thompson, he ignored a pair of outside fastballs from Carlos Villanueva. He did not ignore a lifeless changeup. Puig kept his balance as the baseball traveled deep into the zone and lifted an opposite-field shot.

The two-run lead did not last long. Kazmir surrendered a homer to catcher Derek Norris to start the bottom of the inning. Bethancourt took him deep an inning later. The night appeared decided, until Turner and Upton went deep.

TNS

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