Dodgers’ bullpen surrenders late home runs in loss to Nationals

Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — Brusdar Graterol was his own worst enemy – until Luis Garcia took over that role.

With the score tied in the eighth inning, Graterol lit the fire for a rally by hitting a batter and making a throwing error then gave up a three-run home run to Garcia with two outs and the Washington Nationals beat the Dodgers, 10-6, Wednesday afternoon.

The Dodgers had the lead twice in the early going but starter Noah Syndergaard let it get away both times and the Nationals avoided being swept in the three-game series. Instead, they handed the Dodgers just their second home loss since April 19.

Syndergaard was actually close to having a good outing Wednesday – if pitchers were only required to get two outs in each inning. Six of the seven hits and all five runs he allowed in five innings came after there were two outs in an inning.

The Nationals have their own problem child in their starting rotation – a much more expensive one. Left-hander Patrick Corbin is in the fourth year of a six-year, $140 million contract. That investment has soured since the Nats’ 2019 World Series title. Corbin had a 19-loss, 6.31-ERA season last year, leading the league in hits and earned runs allowed.

This year’s ERA is pushing 5.00 after an afternoon began with a leadoff home run by Mookie Betts (his 40th career leadoff homer), a single by Freddie Freeman (extending his hitting streak to 20 games) and a home run by Will Smith.

Syndergaard let that 3-0 lead get away by surrendering back-to-back two-out home runs to Keibert Ruiz and C.J. Abrams in the second inning then a single-walk-single sequence with two outs in the third inning.

The Dodgers regained the lead against Corbin in the third inning when an error helped load the bases and Corbin walked Max Muncy to force in a run. But they failed to land a knockout blow. Chris Taylor struck out, Miguel Vargas popped out and Miguel Rojas bounced into a forceout.

Syndergaard needed a little bad fortune to give this lead back in the fifth. Joey Meneses doubled with one out and Corey Dickerson lined a ball to Vargas, who tried to flip the ball quickly to Rojas covering second base. But Vargas’ flip was high and pulled Rojas off the base, allowing Meneses to make it back safely.

Instead of an inning-ending double play, the inning was extended long enough for Jeimer Candelario to drive a 1-and-0 changeup from Syndergaard over the center field wall for a two-run home run.

Scoring became more difficult after Syndergaard (now at 6.54) and Corbin (4.92) and their bloated ERAs left the scene.

The Dodgers had another bases-loaded situation in the sixth against Nationals reliever Carl Edwards Jr., this time with two outs. But J.D. Martinez swung and missed at a 96-mph fastball and the Dodgers came up empty.

They finally tied it in the seventh inning with the pitch clock providing the spark.

Taylor drew a one-out walk when Nats reliever Kyle Finnegan didn’t deliver a full-count pitch in the allotted time. After Taylor stole second, Rojas drove him in to tie the game with an RBI single through the middle.

But Graterol hit Keibert Ruiz with his first pitch in the eighth inning then fielded a dribbler on the grass to his left while stumbling and fell down as he threw wildly to second base. C.J. Abrams ran into an out on the bases and Graterol struck out Lane Thomas, getting to within an out of escaping.

But Graterol hung an 0-and-2 slider inside off the plate and Garcia lofted it into the seats down the right-field line.

Betts hit his second homer of the game in the eighth inning but Ruiz did the same in the ninth to put the game away for the Nationals. For the one-time Dodgers prospect (dealt in the trade that brought Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to L.A. temporarily), it was his third home run of the series.