There was a comebacker, then a backbreaker.
Thirty-five innings of lifeless baseball from the San Diego Padres lineup this weekend, then one hapless inning from the Dodgers bullpen on Sunday afternoon.
The Dodgers might have won the four-game series against their division rivals, but they still squandered an opportunity for what could have been a massive midseason sweep Sunday, blowing a late lead in the weekend finale to lose 4-2 in front of 42,633 at Dodger Stadium.
Craig Kimbrel gave up the deciding runs, blowing his third save out of the last seven opportunities after Jake Cronenworth reached on a line drive that drilled Kimbrel in the back, Luke Voit hit a game-tying double off the top of the wall in left and Eric Hosmer hit a go-ahead single into right.
Yency Almonte surrendered a two-run home run to Ha-Seong Kim later in the inning, after Kimbrel left the game alongside a trainer.
The Dodgers then failed in a last-gasp comeback attempt, bringing the tying run to the plate twice in the game’s final two at-bats but failing to capitalize on a day they stranded 11 men on base.
“Unfortunately,” manager Dave Roberts said, “we couldn’t put them away at the end there.”
When Kimbrel emerged at the start of the ninth inning, the Dodgers (49-29) were leading 1-0 and on the verge of a nearly flawless weekend.
They had beaten the Padres (47-34) in the first three games, creating long-sought separation in the National League West standings.
Their lineup had gotten back Mookie Betts, who returned with a bang from a rib injury 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 over the first three games — then shutting them out for the first eight innings Sunday behind a seven-inning gem from Clayton Kershaw.
But then the game changed on a 100.5 mph line drive that struck Kimbrel squarely in the back.
Kimbrel fielded the ball, though not in time to get Cronenworth out at first base. Kimbrel briefly crouched down in pain before popping back up, throwing a few practice pitches in front of a trainer and staying in the game.
“There was thought [to taking him out],” Roberts said. “But a guy like that, when he says he’s good to go and throws some pitches, we liked what we saw.”
The good feeling wouldn’t last.
In the next at-bat, Voit launched a moonshot to left that landed on the top of the wall in front of the Dodgers’ bullpen, bounced away from outfielder Gavin Lux with an unusual sideways carom, and allowed Cronenworth to race home and tie the score.
Hosmer delivered a gut punch after that, roping an RBI single into right field that gave the Padres their first lead since the first inning of Thursday’s series-opening game.
Kimbrel didn’t throw another pitch, exiting alongside a trainer as Almonte was summoned from the bullpen.
Afterward, Roberts said scans on Kimbrel’s back were clean, but that the right-hander would be down for the next couple days.
As for Kimbrel’s role as closer, Roberts said he’s “not even considering” a change despite a recent 15-game stretch in which Kimbrel has posted a 6.28 ERA.
“I think he’s earned that,” Roberts said, adding that given the other injuries in the bullpen, keeping Kimbrel in the ninth inning is “still pretty easy.”
The Dodgers still viewed this weekend as a positive, as well.
They extended their division lead from 1 ½ games to 3 ½ games.
Their four starting pitchers combined to give up three total runs in 24 ⅔ innings.
And they got their lineup back to full strength, showcasing a new batting order Sunday in which Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman hit second and third, respectively, for the first time this season behind Betts in the leadoff spot.
“I thought it played out pretty good today,” said Turner, who went three for four with an RBI.
The only problem:
“Just didn’t get the win,” Turner said, adding: “We let one slip away today, but we took care of 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 games away. They kept competing and clawed back into it.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.