Craig Kimbrel’s blast costs Dodgers four-game sweep of Padres

Los Angeles, CA, Sunday, July 3, 2022 - San Diego Padres right fielder Jose Azocar (28) is tagged out by Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Austin Barnes (15) on a fielder's choice pitch hit by Manny Machado in third inning at Dodger Stadium.  (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

San Diego Padres right fielder José Azocar is tagged out by Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes on a grounder’s choice hit by Manny Machado in the third inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

There was a comebacker, then a backbreaker.

Thirty-five innings of lifeless baseball from the San Diego Padres lineup this weekend, then a hapless inning from the Dodgers bullpen on Sunday afternoon.

The Dodgers may have swept their four-game series against their division rivals, but they still missed a chance for a huge midseason sweep on Sunday, squandering a lead in the weekend finale to lose 4-2 in front of 42,633 at Dodger Stadium.

Craig Kimbrell gave up the decisive runs, recording his third save in the last seven chances after Jake Cronenworth hit a line drive that pierced Kimbrell in the back, Luke Voight hit a game-tying double off the top of the left-field wall and O Eric Hosmer hit a single to right.

Dodgers relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel collects his composure after being hit by a line drive.

Dodgers relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel gathers his composure after hitting a line drive in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Yency Almonte delivered a two-run home run to Ha-Seong Kim later in the inning after Kimbrel left the game with a trainer.

The Dodgers then failed in a last-gasp comeback attempt, bringing the tying run to the plate twice in the final two at-bats of the game, but failed to capitalize on the day as they stranded 11 men on base.

“Unfortunately,” manager Dave Roberts said, “we couldn’t leave them there at the end.”

When Kimbrel appeared in the top of the ninth inning, the Dodgers (49-29) had a 1-0 lead and were on the verge of a nearly flawless weekend.

They had defeated the Padres (47-34) in the first three games, creating the coveted separation in the National League West standings.

Their lineup had back Mookie Betts, who returned with a bang from a rib injury Sunday, going two for three with two walks and two runs scored.

And their pitching staff was dominant, limiting the Padres to four runs in the first three games — then shutting them down for the first eight innings Sunday behind a seven-inning diamond from Clayton Kershaw.

But then the game changed to a 100.5 mph line that hit Kimbrel completely in the back.

Kimbrell fielded the ball, though not in time to get Cronenworth out at first base. Kimbrel briefly bent over in pain before getting 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 ready to go and throws some pitches, we liked what we saw.”

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw pitches against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers shortstop Clayton Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings against the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The good feeling wouldn’t last.

In the next at-bat, Voit launched a moonsault to left that landed on top of the wall in front of the Dodgers’ bullpen, bounced off outfielder Gavin Lux on an uncharacteristic side candy and allowed Cronenworth to race home and tie score.

Hosmer packed a punch after that, belting an RBI single to right field that gave the Padres their first lead since the first inning of Thursday’s opener.

Kimbrel didn’t throw another pitch, walking out next to a trainer as Almonte was called from the bullpen.

Afterwards, Roberts said scans on Kimbrell’s back came back clear, but that the right-hander would be down for the next two days.

As for Kimbrel’s role as closer, Roberts said he’s “not even thinking” about a change despite a recent 15-game stretch in which Kimbrel has posted a 6.28 ERA.

“I think he’s earned that one,” Roberts said, adding that given the other injuries in the bullpen, keeping Kimbrel in the ninth inning is “still pretty easy.”

The Dodgers still saw this weekend as a positive, too.

They extended their lead in the division 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, introducing a new batting lineup Sunday in which Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman came in at second and third, respectively, for the first time this season behind Betts at first.

“I thought he played really well today,” said Turner, who went three for four with an RBI.

The only problem:

“I just didn’t get the win,” Turner said, adding, “We let one get away today, but we took care of things for the most part. It is what it is. It’s a good team there too. It’s not like we’re just giving away toys. They kept competing and got back at it.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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