SAN DIEGO: Whatever malevolent strain of virus has infected the Dodgers’ bullpen, it acts fast.
Chin-Hui Tsao was minding his own business in Oklahoma City a few days ago. Saturday night, he became the latest Dodgers reliever to let them down, walking in the deciding run in the bottom of the 11th inning as the San Diego Padres handed the Dodgers a second consecutive walkoff defeat, 3-2, on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Before Tsao took the mound in the 11th inning, the Dodgers’ beleaguered bullpen was actually on the road to redemption, retiring 12 of 13 batters.
But Tsao came in and gave up a leadoff single to Wil Myers. Two batters later, he gave up a walkoff home run to Melvin Upton Jr. – only he didn’t.
The fly ball to left field was caught by Trayce Thompson at the wall, surprising everyone in the park – most obviously Upton who was caught on camera, mouthing, “Wow” as he walked to the Padres’ dugout.
That only delayed the inevitable. Tsao walked the next two batters, loading the bases, and then walked Yangervis Solarte on four pitches to force in the winning run.
The latest bullpen disaster wasted a night when Thompson and Alex Wood had both auditioned for hero status.
Thompson gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning with a two-run home run that had the potential to settle a pitcher’s duel between Wood and Padres rookie right-hander Cesar Vargas.
The home run was Thompson’s third in the past six games, a stretch that has seen him in the Dodgers’ starting lineup every day as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gives him an extended run against both right- and left-handed pitching.
Saturday’s homer came against the right-handed Vargas, who has been a mystery to the rest of the Dodgers’ lineup.
Promoted from Double-A earlier this year, Vargas has made two starts against the Dodgers. Through six innings Saturday, the Dodgers had just six hits and no runs in 111/3 innings against Vargas.
That changed in the seventh inning. Adrian Gonzalez (making his first start since Monday) led off with a single, lining a ball through the left side with the Padres’ shifted to the right.
Thompson followed and fell behind 1-and-2 against Vargas. He was on a fastball from Vargas, lining it over the wall in right center.
That was all the support the Dodgers gave Wood, who remains winless in his past seven starts despite a 3.89 ERA in that time.
His past three have been even more impressive. He has allowed just five runs on 11 hits in his past 181/3 innings. Saturday, he didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and had six strikeouts by then.
He racked up a career-high 13 strikeouts through six innings, but Thompson’s home run wasn’t enough to get him another win. Wood gave up a leadoff double to Derek Norris and a single to Brett Wallace and was pulled from the game.
The Padres tied it, 2-2, on a sacrifice fly by Alexi Amarista later that inning off reliever Adam Liberatore and the game went to the bullpens after that – an unsettling feeling for the Dodgers. TNS
Their bullpen has allowed 13 runs in 20 innings this week.