Saturday’s game added a new wrinkle to the growing list of things the Dodgers are missing of late, but the 6-5 loss to the Brewers was also a chance to take inventory of what’s still in stock, with 22 different Dodgers appearing in the game.
Will Smith was one of the few Dodgers hitting of late, and though he didn’t even start this game he extended his hitting streak to four games. His two-run triple off Drew Rasmussen gave the Dodgers two go-ahead runs in the 11th.
Where there's a Will, there's a way. pic.twitter.com/gnYpASqKFj— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 2, 2021
Smith’s first career triple was the first by a Dodgers catcher in two seasons, and just the eighth extra-inning triple ever by a Dodgers catcher. The last was by A.J. Ellis in 2011.
All arms on deck
The second bullpen game in a row for the Dodgers was an unplanned one, after a wincing Dustin May walked off the mound just 27 pitches into his fifth start of the season, suffering a right arm injury, the extent of which is unclear.
May will get an MRI once the Dodgers get to Chicago, where they begin a series on Monday against the Cubs.
Garrett Cleavinger was the pitcher tasked with relieving May, and though he allowed a game-tying solo home run, he also got the Dodgers through the fourth. The left-hander was a depth pickup in December, now touching 97 mph with four strikeouts in 15 batters faced — a 26.7-percent strikeout rate — in his first three appearances.
“These guys have so much knowledge, and they’re so good at what they do,” Cleavinger said Saturday of pitching coach Mark Prior and his deep staff. “Being able to come to an environment like this really sets people up for success. They take what you do very well, and they try and maximize that, and they just let you go out and be the best pitcher you can be.”
Nine Dodgers relievers combined for 27 outs, including the quartet of Jimmy Nelson, Scott Alexander, Victor Gonzalez, and Blake Treinen each pitching for a second consecutive night. Kenley Jansen, pitching in his first game since Monday, pitched a scoreless eighth.
Left-hander Alex Vesia, who was called up earlier Saturday as a fresh arm in the bullpen, was put in a sink-or-swim position, with leads in the 10th and 11th innings in his Dodgers debut. Vesia choose the former by walking two to load the bases in each frame. A sacrifice fly scored the equalizer in the 10th inning, but in the 11th Vesia wasn’t given a chance to get out of another jam of his own creation.
Mitch White, who pitched two innings on Friday, entered with the bases loaded and nobody out, trying to clean up the mess. The fifth Dodger to pitch both Friday and Saturday, White was effective, allowing one inherited run to score on a fly ball then getting a strikeout. A potential game-ending ground ball to Corey Seager’s right instead went untouched into left field for the game-tying run, the second unsuccessful back-handed attempt of the night for Seager.
“It’s a hard-hit ball to his backhand, and Corey is a very good defender,” Dave Roberts said of Seager, who entered Saturday with -2 Defensive Runs Saved, -1.9 Ultimate Zone Rating, and -2 Outs Above Average in the early going in 2021. “
Shaw followed with a single to right field to bring home the game-winner, sending the Dodgers to their third straight loss and 10th in the last 13 games.
Leading the way
Mookie Betts was one of many Dodgers struggling of late, but after a day off Friday to reset, he was in the middle of things on Saturday. He slammed the first pitch of the game 406 feet over the center field wall for his first home run since April 13, after a not-so-nice drought of 69 plate appearances.
Betts was also hit by a pitch in the third inning, on the same left elbow that was plunked on April 19 in Seattle and caused him to miss a game. But this time the ball hit an elbow pad, which Betts discarded before rounding the bases to score on a triple by Seager.
In the fifth inning, Betts singled to put runners on the corners with one out, but Brandon Woodruff struck out Seager and Justin Turner to squash one of the Dodgers’ best scoring chances of the weekend.
“This was one of my best games so far,” Betts said. “We just have to string some games together and get some wins.”
Woodruff struck out six in his six innings, but that the Dodgers scored two runs against him marks their best production against a Brewers starter so far in the series. Progress?
Then again, Betts also, after getting intentionally walked in the 11th inning, inexplicably got caught trying to steal second with an insurance run on third and Seager at the plate with one out, so it wasn’t all roses for the Dodgers leadoff man.
“I kind of seemed like a tough matchup for Seager, so I just tried to get to second to stay out of the double play,” Betts said.
Matt Beaty, getting the start in right field, singled twice and walked.
The Dodgers sent Beaty down after a 1-for-11 start (with two walks) during which he was used sparingly, but after a week at the alternate training site at Camelback Ranch has reached base 11 times in 17 plate appearances.
“Whenever you can think about, just chasing the results of what your approach is, and having a successful at-bat, I think that helps you stay in a stronger mental state of mind,” Beaty said Friday.
The Dodgers have carried 14 pitchers for this series, partly to account for Friday’s bullpen game. But it also allowed them to add a fresh arm on Saturday in Vesia, who carved the wildest path possible to a gutting loss.
Carrying those extra pitchers came with a cost: a four-man bench. So when Edwin Ríos — who extended his hitless string to 26 at-bats earlier in the game — was called back for the pinch-hitter Smith in the ninth inning, it necessitated a juggling act in the bottom of the inning.
Out of position players, Smith remained in the game at catcher, while Austin Barnes moved to second base for the first time since June 25, 2019. Saturday was his 50th career game at second base. It also saw Max Muncy, who started at first base but moved to second in the sixth inning, move back to first, giving him the 1B-2B-1B notation in the box score.
It also meant Clayton Kershaw pinch hitting after a 10th-inning intentional walk loaded the bases for the second time in a week. Though he fouled off two pitches and made Drew Rasmussen throw six pitches, the result was the same as Sunday: a strikeout.
“It’s going to be short-lived,” Roberts said of the short bench before the game. “And we’ll get back to normal, but right now that’s where we’re at.”
That back to normal might take a day or two, since Roberts said after the game they would likely call up pitching on Sunday to provide length for a bullpen that’s been taxed the last two days.
Home runs: Mookie Betts (3); Luis Urías (3), Travis Shaw (5)
WP — Angel Perdomo (1-0): ⅔ IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP — Alex Vesia (0-1): 1+ IP, 4 runs (2 earned), 4 walks, 2 strikeouts
Julio Urías gets the call on Sunday morning (11:10 a.m. PT, SportsNet LA). Milwaukee’s starter will be right-hander Alec Bettinger, making his major league debut, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.