Brandon Morrow has been an integral part of the Dodgers relief corps in 2017, serving as the primary setup man in a bullpen that has been a great source of strength both during the regular season and postseason. But in Game 5 of the World Series Morrow found his limit, and the Dodgers suffered because of it.
The Dodgers have relied heavily on both Morrow and closer Kenley Jansen this October, with Morrow appearing in 12 of the club’s 13 postseason games. That’s two shy of the major league record for games in one postseason by a pitcher, set by lefty specialist Paul Assenmacher of the Indians in 1997.
Morrow threw 13 pitches in Game 3 on Friday, then 14 more pitches in Game 4 on Saturday, recording four outs in the latter. This was after appearing in both of the first two games in Los Angeles. After pitching four in five days, the plan was for Morrow not to pitch in Game 5, if at all necessary.
“As far as Brandon, he's available, but try to stay away from him, if we can,” Roberts said before Sunday’s game. “He's probably more fatigued than the next guy in the pen. So I'd definitely take that into consideration. But when you're trying to win a championship, sometimes taking the long view isn't a luxury. You have to kind of win that day.”
The latter sentiment won the day, especially after Clayton Kershaw was unable to complete five innings, putting the Dodgers bullpen in scramble mode.
Morrow, 33, has pitched in the major leagues for 11 years, including five of those seasons with extensive relief work. He had never pitched three days in a row before Game 5.
“He called the middle of the game, and he said, ‘Hey, if we take the lead, I want the ball, my body feels good.’ So in the seventh inning, you can't turn him down,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He felt good, he wanted to be in the game, and it's a credit to him to be used like he has been and want the baseball.”
The Dodgers have only used a pitcher on three straight days four times this season — twice by Luis Avilan in April, twice by Sergio Romo in May. Morrow was only used seven times on back-to-back days during the regular season.
Morrow entered in the seventh inning, facing the top of the Astros lineup with an 8-7 lead. Within six pitches, Houston led 11-8. Morrow in those six pitches allowed two home runs, a double, and a single, and also threw a wild pitch. His night was done.
"It was selfish on my part to push to tell them I'm ready and wanted to get in there. They had a plan and I made them deviate from it."— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 30, 2017
How hard was it to convince them?— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 30, 2017
"I didn't have to try too hard. Everybody wants to step up."
Morrow’s four runs allowed were tied for the most by a Dodgers pitcher in a postseason game without recording an out. Roger Craig allowed four runs in the seventh inning of Game 7 in 1956 World Series, facing five batters while turning a 5-0 deficit into a 9-0 game.
Roberts was asked if his bullpen — which has pitched more innings (23⅔) than the starters (23) in the World Series — was taxed with all the usage this week.
“When you're at this point in October, I think that the Astros can say the same thing,” Roberts said. “I think everyone is taxed right now.”