MONTERREY, Mexico -- Rich Hill isn't even on the active roster, but he impacted the Dodgers' 7-4 loss to the Padres on Saturday night and how Sunday's finale of the Mexico Series will play out.
Hill was to be activated from the disabled list to start Sunday, but the club called an audible because of Hill's chronic finger issues and will give the ball to reliever Thomas Stripling instead for his second spot start in a week.
With a bullpen game upcoming, manager Dave Roberts' late-inning options on Saturday were limited and his choices couldn't contain the last-place Padres, and the Dodgers couldn't score enough even in a game when San Diego's starting pitcher, Bryan Mitchell, was chased in the third inning.
It was the seventh bullpen loss of the season, snapping the club's three-game win streak with the first loss of the year to San Diego after four wins.
And even nine pitchers in the current bullpen wasn't enough. Of those, Roberts said he didn't want to use Tony Cingrani, who pitched in the no-hitter, or JT Chargois, even though he hasn't pitched since Thursday, or Yimi Garcia, who pitched in back-to-back games (including the no-hitter) and is coming off Tommy John surgery, or Pedro Baez, who will be needed on Sunday, or closer Kenley Jansen when trailing. Or Stripling.
The process of elimination led Roberts to give the ball to Josh Fields, who took over for an inconsistent Kenta Maeda in the sixth inning, and allowed a two-run homer to Raffy Lopez after a leadoff walk. It was the third homer Fields has allowed in his last four outings.
"When you pitch off your fastball and you get behind hitters, they can cheat on the fastball and that's not good," said Roberts. "When you walk the leadoff hitter, that's not good, either."
Adam Liberatore, who pitched in the no-hitter, loaded the bases in the seventh inning but was bailed out by Daniel Hudson.
Unfortunately, nobody bailed out Hudson, who allowed two more runs the next inning.
This regression to the rocky relief the Dodgers received in April was in contrast with what they had done in the three preceding games to Saturday, when the bullpen pitched 14 2/3 scoreless innings.
"It's actually pretty simple, when you look at the last 10 days when they did struggle, it's getting behind and the walk," Roberts said. "The three days they pitched well, they got ahead of hitters and didn't walk them. It's the same guys and a simple formula."
Matt Kemp homered and had three hits. Chris Taylor also had three hits. But the Dodgers scored only once after the third inning while hitting into three double plays and stranding nine.
"We had some situational opportunities we didn't convert, then the at-bats in the sixth, seventh and eighth kind of went south, empty at-bats," Roberts said. "And then you got [closer Brad] Hand in the ninth."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Dodgers put eight runners on base against San Diego relievers, but the one at-bat that could have been a difference maker was Alex Verdugo grounding out with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning after the Dodgers had taken a 4-3 lead on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch of Taylor.
When Taylor was hit by a pitch to drive in a run in the sixth inning, he was the 16th Dodger batter to be hit by a pitch this year. Dodgers pitchers have hit five opposing batters with pitches.
HE SAID IT
"Nothing's wrong, they just decided to go with Strip. I've been good to go. I was scheduled for tomorrow, they made the decision to go with Strip." -- Hill, on being scratched from Sunday's start
In Sunday's 1:10 p.m. PT series finale against Eric Lauer and the Padres, Stripling gets the spot start again after management decided not to activate Hill from the DL. Stripling, one of the most effective relievers this year, started in Hill's spot five days earlier and allowed four runs on eight hits (two homers) in four innings against Arizona.