LOS ANGELES -- There was more dysfunction on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, where another game was influenced by the pastel-colored empty seats, hitless Eugenio Velez pinch-hit with the bases loaded and Andre Ethier started the game in controversy and ended it in the on-deck circle.
Another impressive comeback from the determined Dodgers fell short in a 7-6 loss to the Rockies that snapped the Dodgers' win streak at five.
Rookie starter Nathan Eovaldi spotted the Rockies a five-run first inning that saw him throw 41 pitches. But that wouldn't have been necessary if right fielder Trent Oeltjen, starting in place of the injured Ethier, had caught Kevin Kouzmanoff's two-out pop fly with the bases loaded.
But since the 2005 stadium refurbishing, balls off the bat are difficult to pick up during day games. Second baseman Jamey Carroll said he never saw Kouzmanoff's ball as he headed toward the outfield, and Oeltjen got a late jump after finally seeing it, and made a futile dive as the ball glanced off his arm for a three-run double.
"It is tough with the glare off the empty seats," said Oeltjen, who had an RBI single and a stolen base. "You know your reaction time is slower, so you play a little deeper and the ball drops in. If I'm normal depth and see the ball, I catch it."
Kouzmanoff then was singled home by Eliezer Alfonzo, so four runs can be attributed to the one misplay.
"We need blue seats," said first baseman James Loney, who never saw Dexter Fowler's line drive double to his right -- and caught starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin's first-inning line drive when it "found" his glove. "Every team that comes in here complains about it. You don't want to make excuses, but what can you do when you can't see the ball?"
Even Kouzmanoff, who played third base, agreed with Loney.
"The sun's tough here," he said. "I figured just to run the ball out hard because you never know. It's hard, too, to see the ball off the bat because of the yellow seats in the background, so you really have to zero in."
After the top of the first inning, the Dodgers outscored the Rockies, 6-2. Eovaldi, who will probably make only one more start before management sends him to the bullpen to conserve his 21-year-old arm, went only four innings because of the messy first, which included a pair of walks. The last five innings were pitched by a bullpen that threw five scoreless innings in Saturday's extra-innings win.
And it took an exceptional defensive play by Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez to rob Justin Sellers of what could have been a two-run, extra-base hit with two out in the fourth inning.
"CarGo's play, we're down 5-2, that's two runs -- and they came back and jumped on us for two more, so that's a four-run swing, right there," said Mattingly.
The Dodgers' persistent comeback included an odd sixth inning. Chacin earned a shower by walking the first three batters of the inning -- Rod Barajas, Oeltjen and Carroll. Matt Reynolds relieved, and with regulars Juan Rivera, Ethier and Casey Blake on the bench, Mattingly sent up Velez to bat for reliever Blake Hawksworth, who allowed two runs following Eovaldi.
Velez, 0-for-27 since he was promoted from Triple-A, made it 0-for-28 by bouncing into a run-scoring force out.
"I know I'm going to get more shots and he's not going to hit into a double play [because of his speed]," Mattingly said. "We're down, 7-2. I want a guy to put it in play. Knowing what you had on the bench, who was able to play. It was really a no-brainer for me."
Which brings the story back to Ethier, who on Sunday morning backtracked from comments in a Los Angeles Times column implying that the club was forcing him to play with an injured knee. Ethier was out of the lineup, was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, and Mattingly said after the game, "As far as I know, he was able to play today and he was in the on-deck circle [when the game ended]."
On the other hand, Mattingly was uncertain whether Ethier really is able to play.
"We've got to talk about his usage. We'll see," Mattingly said. "It's kind of a little bit of a box for me. He says his knee is hurting and you put him out there and he blows a [hamstring] or something else, and I'm kind of in a box in having a lot of trouble using him. We'll keep talking about it and go from there."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.