With Jackie Robinson smiling down from heaven, the Dodgers Monday night celebrated his breaking of baseball’s color barrier by falling on their sword to the San Diego Padres of all teams.
Or, as Vin Scully put it just moments before it began happening, it was the Sword of Damocles that had hung forebodingly over Chad Billingsley as he made his second start of the season.
The Dodgers ultimately lost to the Padres, 5 -3, on a night when they had hoped to avenge the costly brawl that sidelined $147 million starter Zack Greinke, if not in a pound of flesh, then certainly with a win on a special night against the worst team in the league.
But it was the Padres who spoiled Jackie Robinson’s day, winning it with the Dodgers’ bullpen falling apart and with Chad Billingsley not as sharp in his second start trying to show he has recovered from an elbow injury.
Billingsley put the Dodgers in a 3-0 hole in the second inning when he gave up a three-run home run to Padre starter Eric Stults who hit the ball over centerfield above one of the many tribute signs paying homage to Robinson that dotted Dodger Stadium.
A sold out stadium crowd of 52,136 saw the Dodgers claw back to even the score and appear to have the momentum on a special night.
But then in the seventh inning, Billingsley gave way to Ronald Belisario, and this was not one of those nights for the Dodger bullpen.
In fact, actor Harrison Ford, who plays Brooklyn Dodger GM Branch Rickey in the film “42” and threw out the ceremonial first pitch, might have done better against the Padres than the Dodger bullpen.
Belisario issued a leadoff walk to Cameron Maybin who went to third when Jesus Guzman, on a hit and run play, delivered a ground ball past the diving Luis Cruz at third.
Belisario made the situation worse by walking Everth Cabrera to load the bases with no outs.
Lefthander Paco Rodriguez replaced Belisario, and he walked pinch hitter Chris Denorfia on a full count to score Maybin. Yonder Alonso then grounded into a double play but brought in a second run to give the Padres a 5-3 lead.
The Padres added another run in the eighth, again against a shaky bullpen that loaded the bases and gave up a shallow sacrifice fly to Kyle Blanks that still managed to score Cabrera.
Soon fans headed to the exits in droves, promotional statues in hand but little else. No pound of flesh from the Padres and no victory.
Earlier, the Dodgers honored Jackie Robinson Day by agreeing to a truce arranged by MLB executive vice president Joe Torre who made phone calls to managers Don Mattingly and Bud Black.
They agreed to put aside for the moment the bad blood spilling over from last Thursday’s benches-clearing brawl that resulted in Greinke’s broken collarbone when Padre slugger Carlos Quentin rushed the mound after being hit by a pitch.
“I talked to Joe," Mattingly confirmed to MLB.com writer Ken Gurnick. “He just wanted to make sure we kept things in perspective
"Don and I got the same call," Black said. "This is the way it should be -- sensible. What happened, happened, and it ends. He wanted both teams to know what it was all about.”
The only good thing you could say about the Dodger bullpen was that, in the end, they made Billingsley look better than he appeared.
Billingsley fanned three, walked two and gave up the three runs and seven hits. He threw 88 pitches, 51 of them for strikes.
And, of course, he got little offensive support.
Carl Crawford went 3-for-5, and Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp were each 2-for-5, meaningless considering those three managed to drive in only one run.
And the Sword of Damocles story that Vinny talked about with reference to Billingsley – a sword of potential doom hanging from a single horse hair – it hung over all the Dodgers.