PHOENIX -- For a game in July, the D-backs' series finale vs. the resurgent Dodgers on Wednesday night was about as important as they come. Win and the club would almost guarantee taking a lead in the division into the All-Star break, lose and Los Angeles would be breathing down its neck.
By the time the game came to an end more than five hours after it began, the D-backs watched as their bitter rival celebrated a sweep the club thought it had avoided, only to see the bullpen fail to hold a lead once again.
After their 19th blown save of the season sent the game into extras, the D-backs surrendered back-to-back homers to Hanley Ramirez and A.J. Ellis in the 14th inning and fell to the Dodgers, 7-5, at Chase Field.
"We have to be much better than we have been in the first half to continue to stay in the race," said visibly frustrated D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. "We have to figure out some things so guys can get some outs late in the game. It's too hard on the team playing all the innings like this. It's a shame."
Pitching five innings in relief, Josh Collmenter allowed the game-winning long balls, but he was far from receiving blame for the defeat.
One out away from winning the game in the ninth, Heath Bell walked Adrian Gonzalez then surrendered consecutive singles, the latter off the bat of A.J. Ellis, allowing the Dodgers to tie the game at 5.
"I feel really bad because I let everybody down," Bell said. "We definitely should've won that game."
In Gibson's eyes, the two hits weren't the most egregious transgression Bell committed Wednesday, instead pin-pointing the walk to Gonzalez as "unacceptable."
Said Bell in response, "I've faced him a lot and he knows me pretty well. I was going right after him, missed a few pitches and he fouled off a bunch. The last pitch just got away from me and I ended up walking him."
The blown save marked Bell's second straight and the D-backs' Major League-leading 19th. Arizona now has three of the top four pitchers in NL blown saves with J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Bell tied for second with five. Asked if he has an answer for the back end of his bullpen's struggles, Gibson shrugged.
"I'm not sure I have it, not at this point," he said. "I'm sure I'll be up early thinking about it."
With the loss, the D-backs, who were outhit 15-9 in the finale and 42-25 in the series, saw their division lead shrink to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Dodgers. Over the final nine innings Wednesday, the club tallied just two hits in 28 at-bats.
"It's frustrating, we had our chances, just didn't come out with a win," A.J. Pollock said. "We knew it would've been big to get a win here, but now we move on and try to get some momentum before the All-Star break."
The D-backs will need that momentum if the club hopes to stay perched atop the division in front of the Dodgers, who are now 15-3 over their last 18 games and are back to .500 for the first time since April 30.
"We knew they had the players, they just weren't piecing it together," Pollock said. "They're real hot now but hopefully we can get that hot soon. We have to play better baseball, I don't think we've gotten real hot yet."
Before the game extended into the wee hours, top prospect Tyler Skaggs finished his outing having allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings. The southpaw played with fire for the entirety of his start until his magic ran out in the fifth when Ramirez doubled home a pair of runs erasing the D-backs' first of two two-run leads.
"I missed my spot a few times and you can't do that up here," Skaggs said. "They are a hot-hitting team, they aren't missing pitches, it's tough but you have to go out there and throw strikes."
Skaggs' outing, which ended up actually being shorter than Collmenter's relief appearance, didn't factor much into the ending of the game though after his offense provided the team with another lead.
In the fifth, Paul Goldschmidt drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with a double to the right-center-field gap, upping his league-leading RBI total to 76. Later in the inning, Martin Prado tacked on another run with a two-out RBI single to left, giving the D-backs a 5-3 cushion.
"Looking back, it would've been good to scrap another a couple more," Pollock said. "It's tough to keep them down at the end of the game."
Brad Ziegler worked a scoreless sixth before Hernandez served up a solo shot to Gonzalez in the seventh to make it a one-run game again and set up Bell's blown save in the ninth. The D-backs will try to turn around from the disappointing loss Thursday when the club hosts the Brewers for the first of its final four games before the All-Star break.
"We don't hang our heads, we battle every day," Bell said. "It's a tough game to lose but all of them are. The Dodgers are a good team right now, definitely does hurt a little bit but I think we'll bounce back real nicely."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.