LOS ANGELES – It did not seem to matter what decision Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo made here over the weekend. Whether he stuck with his starter, whether he played things conservatively, whether he managed aggressively – whatever his move, it seemed, it was bound to fail.
For the third consecutive day, the Diamondbacks watched a late-game lead evaporate against the Los Angeles Dodgers. All three games ended with the same 3-2 score. And all three ended with carnage strewn across the landscape.
They easily could have won each of the four games they played at Dodger Stadium over the weekend. They could have headed home with a comfortable lead in the National League West, riding high after beating back their rival.
BOX SCORE: Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 2
Instead, they left Dodger Stadium on Sunday as a third-place team, losers of three of four. They were overtaken in the standings by both the Dodgers, the new stretch-run leaders, and the Colorado Rockies.
With 25 games remaining, the Diamondbacks might not have lost the National League West over the weekend, but they made winning it far more difficult.
Lovullo stuck with Zack Greinke on Friday night and watched Greinke give up the go-ahead homer. He played it safe on Saturday, pulling his starter early, handing off to his bullpen, then watching as Archie Bradley came unraveled, serving up the go-ahead homer to Matt Kemp.
Then on Sunday, he manufactured a do-over, yanking his closer, Brad Boxberger, to set up a Bradley-Kemp rematch. It did not end well. Kemp blistered a first-pitch fastball off the wall in left-center field for a two-run, walk-off double.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo explains the moves he made in the ninth inning after the Dodgers’ walkoff win on Sunday.
The bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday was filled with lever-pulling by both managers. It also was rife for second-guessing.
With the Diamondbacks holding a 2-1 lead, Lovullo had lefty Andrew Chafin on the mound to start the inning, but, after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent Chris Taylor up to hit for Yasmani Grandal, Lovullo then opted to go with Boxberger.
That prompted Roberts to burn Taylor in favor of rookie Alex Verdugo, meaning that with Max Muncy, who already had homered, on deck, Boxberger would open the inning against a pair of lefties at a time when the club aggressively had been trying to match him up with righties.
“I thought about that,” Lovullo said. “I just made up my mind if Verdugo was going to be in the game, nothing against where he’s been and what he’s done, I just liked our guy, our closer, against that type of player.
“Muncy was concerning me a little bit, no doubt about it, but I felt like if it was Verdugo or (Andrew) Toles against Boxberger, I was comfortable.”
Boxberger proceeded to walk Verdugo on five pitches, then issued another walk to Muncy, against whom he jumped ahead 0-2. After a sac bunt by Kiké Hernandez, Lovullo made an unorthodox move: He yanked his closer, who had not yet blown a save.
“That’s not a great start,” Lovullo said of the back-to-back walks. “It was one of those moments where I couldn’t wait around. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”
The Bradley move set up another decision: either pitch to Kemp, who burned them the night before, or walk him to load the bases. For Lovullo, that choice was tied to the hitter three spots away, Justin Turner.
“(Walking Kemp) meant you were going to get Turner,” Lovullo said, “and I was trying to stay away from that.”
Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley talks about the two-run double he allowed to Matt Kemp to end Sunday’s game against the Dodgers.
So Bradley pitched to Kemp, fired a first-pitch fastball up in the zone and Kemp swung like he knew it was coming. Perhaps he did. A night earlier, Bradley made a mistake with his curveball and Kemp launched it into the seats for a three-run homer.
“I love Archie, but you could already read it, that he was going to throw a fastball there,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said. “Matt straight up turned on that heater. He was all over the heater. That’s a good piece of hitting.”
The Diamondbacks were left to trudge off the field at the end of a 2-5 road trip.
“We’ll come out tomorrow ready to go,” infielder Daniel Descalso said. “This team does a really good job of putting those losses behind us when they do happen. It stings right now, but we’ll on the plane, get home and regroup and get right for the Padres.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.