LOS ANGELES – The 47,754 jammed into Dodger Stadium for Jersey Night, the biggest crowd to watch the Twins in six years, grew restless as the eighth inning arrived. The Dodgers had led the Twins briefly in the fifth inning, and Los Angeleans knew what that meant: An automatic Dodger victory. For 46 consecutive games, any lead at any time meant Los Angeles would finish on top.
It took awhile, but the inevitable finally arrived: Taylor Rogers left a curveball over the plate to Cody Bellinger, the rookie phenom deposited it over the center field wall, and the three-run homer carried the Dodgers to victory 6-4 — consecutive win No. 47 when L.A. held a lead, and their 21st win in their last 24 games at Dodger Stadium. It also dropped the Twins to 49-49 on the season, the first time they’ve been no better than a .500 team since they were 11-11 on April 28.
“It was a good ballgame except for the ending,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We did a lot of things right, we pitched well enough, had some really good at-bats…. It’s a tough loss when you played as well as we did.”
That outcome left the Twins feeling snake-bitten, considering it was one of their best relievers who coughed up the homer. And it overshadowed the decision that Molitor made after the game: Bartolo Colon will remain in the Twins’ starting rotation for now.
Colon definitively established, against the hottest team in baseball, that he’s still got the stuff to get major-league hitters out, at least for awhile. And he’s a pretty good bunter, too. Those admirable attributes were enough to keep the 44-year-old among the Twins’ five-man rotation, even in the wake of the team’s acquisition of Jaime Garcia earlier Monday. Instead, Kyle Gibson will be demoted to the minor leagues to make room for Garcia.
Colon faced only 13 Dodgers hitters, one over the minimum, through his first four innings. Colon, eclipsing 90 mph more frequently than he did in his first start, allowed three singles during his first four innings, but none ever advanced past second base.
But as happened in his Minnesota debut last Tuesday against the Yankees, he began to get hit hard during the fifth inning. This time, it was Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson slamming back-to-back home runs to center and left fields, followed by a Yasiel Puig triple. Colon retired Chase Utley on a popup to shallow center, but Chris Taylor singled Puig home for the inning’s third run, igniting the huge crowd.
Colon was pulled for a pinch-hitter, so his final line was five innings, eight hits, three runs, two strikeouts and no walks. But unlike last week, that outing didn’t come stapled to a loss.
That’s because the Twins manufactured a two-out rally in the fourth inning that produced two runs, then tacked on a couple more runs, mostly courtesy of left fielder Eddie Rosario. After Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, in his first start since returning from the disabled list with an injured foot, issued a two-out walk to Eduardo Escobar in the fourth inning, Rosario clubbed a double to the wall in center field, scoring Escobar. Robbie Grossman drew a walk, and Jason Castro followed with a double that scored Rosario. Grossman, though was tagged out at the plate, a call that was upheld even though some replays cast doubt on the timing of Grandal’s tag.
Two innings later, Rosario smashed an opposite-field home run off Grant Dayton, only the fifth of his career off a left-handed pitcher. And in the seventh inning, Rosario lined a ball to left that Chris Taylor allowed to get past him to the wall. Miguel Sano hustled around the bases to score the go-ahead run, putting the Dodgers’ amazing streak in jeopardy.
Well, only for awhile. Taylor led off the eighth with a single, and Justin Turner added a one-out single, too, bringing up Bellinger. Rogers induced Bellinger to swing and miss at a low curve, foul off an inside one to run the count to 0-and-2. But the rookie was waiting for another curve, and he got it, thigh-high on the outside corner.
“It was just [bad] location. Obviously I wanted further down and away,” Rogers said. “But it’s the big leagues — a hitter like that, if you make a mistake that’s what happens.”
Still, Rogers didn't think tbe ball would travel that far.
“I thought he hit it off the end of the bat, actually,” he said.
But it landed 400 feet away, just like the Dodgers fans expected all along.