A walk-off win appeared imminent Friday night when the Dodgers had the bases loaded with no outs after scoring the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Colorado Rockies closer Daniel Bard was reeling, the right-hander’s pitch count at 25 after walking Justin Turner to force in a run. The Dodgers had one of their best clutch hitters at the plate in Will Smith.
The Rockies brought their outfield and infield in. A Dodger Stadium crowd of 43,730 rose to its feet. All Smith or the next batter, Sheldon Neuse, had to do was put a ball in play, and there was a great chance the Dodgers would wipe away the sour taste of their third late-game bullpen meltdown in as many nights.
“I was pretty certain the game was gonna be over,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Will has taken a lot of good at-bats for us, and he’s had a lot of big hits for us, so I felt really good about him putting the ball in play, especially with where Bard’s pitch count was at.”
But Smith, who hit a dramatic three-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a walk-off win over San Francisco on Tuesday night, struck out on three pitches, all sliders. Neuse struck out on four pitches, all sliders. AJ Pollock stretched out his at-bat to six pitches but also struck out swinging at a slider.
The game went to extra innings, where Trevor Story’s RBI single and Charlie Blackmon’s two-run homer off Dodgers reliever Jimmie Sherfy in the 10th inning gave the Rockies a 9-6 victory.
“I think we started to expand,” Roberts said of his team’s futility in the ninth. “You could see [Bard] was stressed. His pitch count was up. He went to the slider, and we swung at a couple that were up in the zone. We couldn’t move it forward. We couldn’t drive in that run.”
The Dodgers’ third straight loss in which they were tied or leading entering the ninth inning dropped them to 1-10 in extra-inning games this season. They are 58-30 in other games.
“I have no idea,” Turner said, when asked if he had an explanation for the team’s struggles in extra innings. “If you guys have anything, let me know, but it’s pretty weird. We’re 1-10 this year in extra innings. That’s not good.”
Roberts was also stumped by the extra-innings record.
“It is hard to explain,” he said. “We’ve lost them on the road, we’ve lost them at home. Certain games we had a chance to win offensively, other times we didn’t hold the lead. You’d like to think it will even itself out, but outside of dissecting each game, I really couldn’t give you an educated answer.”
The Dodgers scored three runs in the first inning Friday night on doubles by Chris Taylor, Smith and Cody Bellinger, and Matt Beaty’s RBI single. Turner hit a solo homer in the third.
Bellinger hit a triple and scored on Beaty’s single in the sixth for a 5-3 lead, but Bellinger aggravated a left-hamstring injury while legging out the triple and departed after the seventh.
“He’s gonna be down [on Saturday], but I’d like to think we got ahead of it,” Roberts said. “He felt it on his triple. It’s the same hamstring as before. Hopefully Sunday he’ll be back in there. Right now, I guess he’s day to day.”
Dodgers had to turn to their more inexperienced relievers Friday night because setup man Blake Treinen and closer Kenley Jansen pitched the last two nights, with Jansen throwing 60 pitches while blowing two ninth-inning leads to the Giants. Also, Joe Kelly was out because of “some soreness,” according to Roberts.
Left-hander Alex Vesia retired the side in order in the seventh, but Brusdar Graterol, called up before the game, gave up a Garrett Hampson single and a Blackmon RBI double in the eighth, and left-hander Darien Núñez gave up a two-out RBI single to Ryan McMahon that tied the score 5-5.
Sam Hilliard’s pinch-hit, two-out homer off Núñez gave Colorado a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth before the Dodgers tied it in the bottom of the ninth, an inning that began with singles by Austin Barnes and Taylor and walks to Billy McKinney and Turner.
“I think offensively, we need to find a way to do a better job of extending leads throughout the game,” Turner said. “This last month or so, we’ve been pretty reliant on big crooked numbers and not able to find ways to scratch out some ones and twos in there. We need to keep on adding on as we get into these games.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.