The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, which had been perfect for the first week of the season, imploded Tuesday, opening the way for a 9-3 San Diego Padres rout in their home opener.
A scoreless streak that had reached 14 1/3 innings ended in the seventh inning when Dodger reliever Ronald Belisario failed to hold a 3-3 tie.
But that was just the beginning as the Padres exploded for a five-run eighth, highlighted by Will Venable’s bases loaded triple off J.P. Howell that broke open the game.
Suddenly, in the space of two innings, all the magic that Dodger manager Don Mattingly had called on in using his bullpen last week disappeared amid the sold out Petco Park chants of “Beat L.A.”
That they did and more.
Padre pitching reverted the Dodger offense to the sputtering of last week, as they failed to capitalize on opportunities presented to them by Padre starter Clayton Richard.
Meanwhile, Venable seemed like a one-man wrecking crew, slamming a two-run homer off starter Josh Beckett in the first inning as he drove in four runs in the game.
The Dodgers got their leadoff hitter on board each of first four innings but didn’t do anything with that until the fourth when Juan Uribe muscled a home run to right.
It was hit into an area where it would have been a fly ball out a year ago but was helped out Tuesday by the drawn in fences in the revamped stadium.
Uribe’s home run drove in Adrian Gonzalez who had blooped a single to left and was 2-for-3 in the game, upping his average to .435.
Carl Crawford was 2-for-4 and remained the leading hitter at .458.
But cleanup hitter Matt Kemp continues to struggle, going 1-for-5 and leaving four runners on base.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered given how the bullpen fell apart.
Beckett didn’t have the best of outings. In fact, it is second mediocre start of the season, and it’s become apparent this is just a shadow of the old, dominating Beckett.
He kept getting hurt on fastballs he left up in the strike zone. He is no longer the overpowering Beckett of the past with a fastball in the mid-90s, and his fastball clocked Tuesday in the high 80s was disappointing.
But he still left after five innings with the Dodgers only trailing, 3-2, after Nick Hundley put the Padres ahead in the fifth with a 350-foot home run into left field.
Mattingly then turned to the bullpen, and Chris Capuano did his part, pitching a perfect sixth inning.
The Dodgers tied the game in the seventh when Gonzalez’ opposite field single drove in Crawford who had opened the inning with a single.
And what Dodger fan wouldn’t have placed their bets on the bullpen the rest of the way?
But Belisario gave up the lead in the seventh, tagged by Mark Kotsay’s double to right center that drove in Cameron Maybin.
The Padres extended the lead in the eighth inning when they capitalized on two bases on balls, gifts from Paco Rodriguez, cashing in on Chris Denorfia’s single off Matt Guerrier.
Then it got ugly and even uglier.
Three Dodger relievers gave up five walks in the inning.
When Guerrier issued a walk that loaded the bases, Mattingly called in Howell to face Venable who welcomed the bullpen back to earth.