Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to stay away from his highest-leverage relievers in Thursday’s series finale against the Rockies, so just before the game he told the senior member of the bullpen, David Price, that he would be the closer if the team led in the ninth inning.
“I can’t repeat what I said, but I was excited for it,” Price said after the game. “Everything kind of unfolded really well in that game, and it was cool to be a part of.”
It wasn’t easy, with the first two batters reaching base on singles. But Price recovered with a pair of strikeouts, hitting 94.3 mph on his two-seam fastball in closing out the 7-5 victory. Price said his adrenalin Thursday was the highest of his four outings, the first three of which he entered with leads of six, eight, and seven runs.
It also came on a day in which Price donated his game salary — over $172,000 — to The Players Alliance, saying, “I felt it was the right thing to do.”
“To see David finish it off on Jackie Robinson Day, I think capped a really good night off,” manager Dave Roberts said. “On so many levels, it’s positive. There’s not a guy in that clubhouse that doesn’t respect David. They were pulling for him, so obviously this is a special day for him.
“You don’t script many things in baseball, but this couldn’t have been scripted any better for him. I’m just excited for him because he’s done everything we’ve asked, and will continue to do so.”
“If we can put him out there in spots like that — and he’s a guy that’s done it for a lot of years now — we’re gonna rely on him heavily,” said Max Muncy, whose seventh-inning homer gave the Dodgers the lead. “So it’s nice to see that.”
It was Price’s second career save, and the first one he’ll keep the ball from, at least until he sends this one to his parents, who likely missed this game live in the Eastern time zone. In Game 7 of the ALCS in 2008, which Price saved to send Andrew Friedman’s Rays to their first World Series, Akinori Iwamura stepped on second base for the final out, and put that baseball in his back pocket.
Price’s willingness to pitch in any role has earned him universal praise, but prior to this series he hadn’t pitched in a week. Now he’s pitched twice in three days, creating another ancillary benefit in the process.
After getting the front-end benefit of Price pitching effectively in two of three games against the Rockies, the Dodgers are set up well on the back end, too. They head into a showdown series against the Padres in San Diego with their top four relievers — Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel, Blake Treinen, and Victor Gonzalez — each having pitched once in the last four days, so they are well rested for the weekend.
“We have a very stout bullpen, especially with the way that Kenley, Knebel, and Blake are throwing the baseball, so I’m fine with where I’m at in the bullpen with my role,” Price said. “Those guys have earned the spots they have out there, and I just want to kind of earn my keep in that bullpen.”
AJ Pollock felt tightness in his left groin while beating out an infield single in the fourth inning, and was removed for a pinch runner after a single in the seventh as a precaution. He’s day to day. “We think we got ahead of it,” Roberts said. “Once he wakes up, gets to the ballpark, and gets some treatment, we’ll know more.”
Gavin Lux, who was scratched from Thursday’s lineup with right wrist soreness, pinch ran for Pollock, but did not stay in the game to field, or potentially later hit. He’s also day to day.
Much like last year, with COVID-19 protocols, Dodgers players will avoid commercial air travel whenever possible. So Brusdar Graterol, Sheldon Neuse, Keibert Ruiz, and DJ Peters will drive from Camelback Ranch in Arizona to join the team in San Diego as part of the taxi squad.
The Dodgers are off to San Diego to battle the Padres, with Walker Buehler getting the ball on Friday night (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), facing off against Ryan Weathers making his first major league start.