The fastball registered at 92 mph when it connected with Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. It ricocheted off his left hand and dribbled across the grass beyond home plate. Turner tumbled into the dirt. Quiet descended upon Dodger Stadium.
The possibility of injury loomed larger than insult in the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday. The Dodgers have grown accustomed to losing to left-handed pitchers the last two seasons. Already in 2017, the team has dropped six games when facing a left-handed starter. On Tuesday, they opposed a left-handed pitcher incapable of commanding his fastball, but capable of wounding cornerstones of the Dodgers infield.
Turner picked himself up and trotted to first base. An X-ray on his hand was negative. Logan Forsythe had been less lucky. He left because of a bruised right big toe. An X-ray on the toe was deemed “inconclusive,” Forsythe said. He will undergo a follow-up examination by team doctors Wednesday.
“It just hurts,” Forsythe said. “I hope it’s not [broken]. But I guess we’ll get that news tomorrow.”
It would be too generous to describe Rockies starter Kyle Freeland as “effectively wild” on Tuesday. He was wild, for sure, drilling Turner and Forsythe, and walking four batters. He was effective if only because he faced the Dodgers, one of the sport’s least-proficient offenses against left-handed pitchers. He collected 12 outs, which created enough runway for the Rockies bullpen to hold the lead.
Losing for the third game in a row, the Dodgers succumbed to a familiar, bitter formula. The lineup stranded 12 runners. Turner delivered a run-scoring single in the ninth inning, but the hit only added to the tease: Yasiel Puig flied out to the warning track in the next at-bat. Yasmani Grandal cut the deficit to one run with a single. The game ended when Adrian Gonzalez bounced into a groundout.
Hyun-Jin Ryu surrendered three home runs in six innings. Nolan Arenado, Colorado’s third baseman, tormented Ryu by hitting two. Ryu (0-3, 5.87 ERA) has given up six homers in three starts. He gave up eight in 26 starts in 2014, his last season before shoulder surgery. He appears capable of imitating the pitcher he once was. An imitation rarely surpasses the original.
“He’s still coming back,” manager Dave Roberts said. “To expect him to be locked in right now might be a little unfair.”
The previous three games had drained the Dodgers bullpen. The three starting pitchers combined for 12 innings. The team fell Monday in part because Roberts felt forced to use reliever Chris Hatcher in a multi-inning stint. Hatcher served up a game-deciding homer in his second inning.
To break the cycle, Roberts turned to Ryu. In his first two starts, Ryu had failed to finish the fifth inning, a reality that gnawed at him. The first inning Tuesday would, too. Ryu gave up a leadoff double to outfielder Charlie Blackmon. Two batters later, Ryu threw a 90-mph fastball over the middle. Arenado hit a two-run homer.
“That’s his nitro zone,” Roberts said.
Thus the Dodgers landed in an early deficit while facing a left-handed pitcher. Freeland had beaten the team once this season, stringing together six innings of one-run baseball April 7. And the lineup lost one of its better right-handed hitters after only one at-bat.
In the first inning, Freeland hit Forsythe in the right foot with a 90-mph fastball. Forsythe hobbled to first base and waved off the training staff. He wore a grimace as he played two more innings in the field. Scott Van Slyke replaced him in the batting order in the bottom of the third.
Van Slyke took part in a would-be rally. He walked, which put two runners aboard with one out for Corey Seager. Seager continued a recent spell of ineptitude by striking out for the sixth at-bat in a row. Turner grounded out to end the threat.
The hole expanded in the fourth inning. Shortstop Trevor Story punished Ryu for a belt-high fastball. The solo shot landed in the left-field bleachers.
The offense managed to scrape together a run in the fourth inning. Enrique Hernadez led off with a walk. Gonzalez bounced a single over the head of first baseman Mark Reynolds. Joc Pederson hit a cue-shot run-scoring infield single that Arenado could not convert into an out.
Arenado blunted the Dodgers’ momentum in the fifth inning. Ryu paid for a mistake made in the previous inning. By hitting No. 8 hitter Dustin Garneau with two outs, Ryu turned over the Rockies lineup and allowed Arenado a third at-bat against him. Arenado did not miss. He made an 89-mph fastball disappear beyond the left-field fence.
The Dodgers rallied in the ninth inning. But the threat of a serious injury still hung over the club as the night end.
“It is significant,” Roberts said. “As far as if there is some sort of fracture, and if he wakes up tomorrow, and doesn’t feel any relief.”
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes