The final score of last night’s Dodger Game 3 win does not reflect how close of a game it really was at Nationals Park. Even though the scoreboard said 10-4 Dodgers, for the first five innings, the Nationals had the Dodgers right where they wanted them.
But then with two outs in the top of the sixth, the Dodgers scored seven runs and this game was effectively over. The Nationals bullpen plan failed them and the Dodgers were able to win the game comfortably.
Here are three takeaways from the six-run win as the Dodgers look to win the series later today.
Solid start from Hyun-Jin Ryu
Hyun-Jin Ryu had just five starts in the regular season where he did not pitch into the sixth inning. So a five-inning start where he allowed two runs and four hits is not reflective of how well he pitched in the regular season.
However, after giving up a two-run homer to left-handed hitter in the first inning, Ryu was able to keep the Dodgers in the game while managing through spots where the Nationals could not add on to their lead. The Nationals were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position against Ryu with of those plate appearances producing an inning-ending double play.
After the game, catcher Russell Martin had this to say about Ryu’s start.
“Didn’t necessarily have his best stuff, best command,” Martin said. “But he throws strikes, keeps guys on their heels. He can mix speeds and mix locations, and our defense made some nice plays and he kept us in the game.”
Through the first three games, the Dodger starters have been slightly out-pitched by the Nationals and while both Clayton Kershaw and Ryu could have been expected to pitch better, their starts did give them a chance to win.
The Dodgers could capitalize on that chance last Friday but they did break through last night and that opportunity was provided by Ryu.
The Dodger offense is a team effort
While it is true that the Dodgers need Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager to find their regular season form in the postseason, it is also true that they will need unexpected production from their entire lineup to win games this October.
Russell Martin’s two-out two-run double to give the Dodgers the lead is an example of that kind production. Martin spoke about how he was able to recall what they talked about during their pregame meeting about Patrick Corbin and how he was then able to use that during that key plate appearance.
“And then I just remember in the back of my mind,” Martin said. “We had a meeting and we went over Corbin. And with two strikes guys in scoring positions he doesn’t really throw many strikes, he’s going to try and make you chase a little bit.”
“And I got to see kind of where the ball started, like the ball slider started,” Martin said. “And the more pitches I saw the more I felt comfortable. And I had some pretty easy takes, got back in the count, and then he just left a breaking ball a little bit up.”
Justin Turner spoke about once the Dodgers got some hits in the sixth inning, he felt the team relaxed and were able to then put some good at-bats together in that inning.
“It started with Bellinger and the good at-bat,” Turner said. “Then Freezer goes up and shoots the four hole, hits through the shift and we get first and third. Belli does a great job running the bases getting to third base.”
“And then Russ comes up and gets down 0-2 and takes the big swing,” Turner said. “And I felt like it took a lot of pressure off of guys and then it was quality at-bat after quality at-bat after that and next thing we know there’s seven runs on the board. So offense is definitely contagious and I think we all caught it that inning.”
The Dodgers need to continue to make in-series adjustments
The seven-run sixth inning also featured decisions that the Dodgers had planned for going into the game. Three Dodger right-handed pinch-hitters faced Patrick Corbin and each of them produced.
David Freese had a key single before Martin’s double, Chris Taylor walked to extend the inning and Kiké Hernandez two-run pinch-hit double put the Dodgers three-runs ahead.
Manager Dave Roberts spoke about their thought process about the potential Patrick Corbin Game 3 relief appearance after the game.
“Obviously with, when you’re going to, you go to Corbin at some point, which we were planning on,” Roberts said. “To have certain guys that you might hit for, I loved the matchups to combat Corbin.”
“He made some good pitches,” Roberts said. “And fortunately we spoiled some good pitches and took some really good at-bats. But it’s just a complete buy-in from our guys that you might not start the game, but you certainly have an opportunity later on in the game to impact it. It was effect with Freese, Kiké, CT, all those guys impacted that way, that game, coming off the bench.”
The Dodgers may need to look at giving A.J. Pollock some time on the bench today as he is not seeing the ball well at all against the Nationals. And while it seems unlikely, Chris Taylor or Kiké Hernandez getting a start at shortstop may not be a the worst thing as they could also let Corey Seager gain some knowledge from the bench.
So far, the Dodgers have not had a tough bullpen call, the only time of any real difficulty was last night’s appearance from Joe Kelly. And given the Dodger six-run lead at the time, you could see why the Dodgers did not immediately have someone up even with two-on and no outs.
But, Kelly, for whatever reasons, did not pitch much at all during the last two weeks of the regular season and he seems to be a pitcher that needs to be in rhythm from the first batter or else.
So perhaps, the Dodgers need to find a gear between no panic and no tomorrow right now because while they did pass their first test yesterday with a somewhat must-win game, they will need to continue that focus moving forward.