Craig Kimbrel released him and then watched him go.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday night, on the verge of his 23rd save and his 10th consecutive scoreless appearance, the Dodgers tried to close out the game with a lofty fastball.
In his place, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Sergio Alcantara finished with a three-run home run to give the Diamondbacks a 5-3 victory.
In what started out as a sleepy contest that featured none of their top three hitters, nor one of their normal starting pitchers, the Dodgers were still leading going into the bottom of the 10th inning.
They had sent the game into extra innings after Diamondbacks designated hitter Jake McCarthy was ejected trying to steal home with two outs in the ninth inning.
They went ahead when their former reliever, Reyes Moronta, threw a wild pitch that scored a run in the top of the 10th.
Then came Kimbrel, called to the rescue amid a recent month-long trade in which he hadn’t allowed a hit since Aug. 17, retired all 15 batters he’d faced this month, cut his ERA by nearly a run. and earned the goodwill of a long-absent fanbase after changing its entrance song to “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”
On Wednesday, however, there was no song, and neither did Kimbrel save.
He walked his first batter, rallied with a couple of quick outs, but then fell behind Alcantara with a high fastball and a low curveball.
On a count of 2 and 1, Kimbrel tried to come back with an elevated four-seam. However, he lost his spot, leaving him in what manager Dave Roberts called Alcantara’s “nitro zone” over the inside half of the plate.
“I think it all comes down to the last hitter,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy who knows he should get out.”
Instead, Alcantara sent him to the right-field seats, winning the game to help the Diamondbacks avoid a series sweep and reigniting questions about Kimbrel’s role on a Dodgers team headed for the playoffs.
A few weeks ago, when Kimbrel was still fighting, Roberts said he didn’t know who would close out the Dodgers’ playoff games.
On Wednesday night, he said it was unchanged.
“If Craig continues to throw the ball like he has [recently, before tonight]I have every confidence that he will finish games for us,” Robert said. “But then again, that depends on what he’s been doing. He has been hitting the breaking ball and dominating the fastball. Tonight, he just wasn’t there for various reasons.”
Roberts thought Kimbrel’s inconsistent command might have been affected by having an automatic baserunner on second to start the inning.
The right-hander offered a much simpler explanation for his fifth blown save of the season, which pushed his ERA back above four to 4.03.
“He gave him a good swing,” Kimbrel said. “On a 2 and 1 count there, you want to go up and down. I did The ball left the stadium.”
The game began with the focus on the Dodgers’ bench players.
One day after clinching the NL West, the team gave its three superstars, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner and Mookie Betts, the day off.
While Betts has gotten the occasional day off this season, Turner had only missed one other game all year while Freeman had played 141 straight, a streak he tried to extend with some late-night text messages to manager Dave Roberts on Tuesday. in the evening.
“I got a half-dozen texts from him requesting,” Roberts said with a smile, conveying that it reminded Freeman of the deal the two had about giving the first baseman the day off after they made sure.
“The manager won,” Roberts added.
Still, after trailing 2-0 early when rookie starter Michael Grove gave up a pair of early home runs, the Dodgers tied the score in the fourth on back-to-back homers by Will Smith and Trayce Thompson.
His bullpen kept the tension from there, getting scoreless innings from Chris Martin, Alex Vesia and Tommy Kahnle, who struck out two batters and hit 97 mph with his fastball in his first game in four months after coming off the roster. injured this week.
Evan Phillips entered in the ninth inning and allowed a leadoff single to McCarthy, who then stole the second before advancing to third on a groundout.
With two outs, he tried to catch Austin Barnes off guard behind the plate, breaking for the plate when Barnes threw a ball to Phillips between pitches.
Phillips alertly returned the ball to Barnes, who applied the tag in time without violating MLB rules against home plate blocking, a decision that was upheld even after a challenge from the Diamondbacks.
“Actually, we were just playing catch,” Barnes said. “He gave it back to him and he made the play.”
An inning later, Kimbrel couldn’t do the same, breaking the best stretch of her season with a scene eerily similar to her struggles earlier in the season.
“Craig is feeling terrible right now,” Roberts said. “But the recent body of work, for me, I think I’m still very bullish on it.”