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Dodgers offense isn’t doing the bullpen any favors

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LA bats silent for first 6 innings of both games at Wrigley, pitchers finally slip after tightrope act nearly all of nightcap

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Two Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The second game of the doubleheader on Tuesday at Wrigley Field ended with the same result as the first, though the nightcap proved much more cruel for the road team. The Dodgers had enough relievers to get through the allotted seven innings, the the deeper they moved down the bullpen depth chart in extras, the more the game got away in a 4-3 Cubs win in nine innings.

Chicago was 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position in this one and were one out away from losing, until Javier Báez tattooed a fastball from Mitch White for a two-run home run in the eighth inning, the Cubs’ first hit with runners in scoring position.

The second Cubs hit with runners in scoring position came in the ninth, a single by David Bote over the head of Mookie Betts in right field, scoring Kris Bryant for the walk-off win. That came off Garrett Cleavinger, the eighth reliever used by the Dodgers in two games on Tuesday, suffering his second extra-inning loss of the season.

“We’ve got them jumping in with both feet. They’ve been in some big spots for us. They’re young, major league pitchers,” said Dave Roberts. “How things are going with the pen and some injuries and unfortunate things, they’re being thrust into some big situations. My encouragement is to stay out there and keep competing, keep trying to make pitches and create better memories.”

As a reminder, the Dodgers have four pitchers from their opening day bullpen currently on the injured list.

The only one of the nine active relief pitchers on the roster who didn’t pitch Tuesday was Scott Alexander, who despite pitching the last two games still co-leads the team with 13 appearances. Roberts said Alexander was dealing with some soreness, and that the team might add another pitcher for coverage before Wednesday’s series finale, even with an off day coming Thursday.

That the Dodgers were even in a position to potentially win was a testament to their pitchers escaping jams through the first seven innings. But they couldn’t keep the streak going in the eighth and ninth.

The nightcap almost ended in regulation, with the Dodgers failing to score until a solo home run in the seventh inning. This time it was Max Muncy charging the first earned run of the season to Craig Kimbrel’s ledger by hitting a ball 391 feet, into the right field seats.

It was the first home run and first extra-base hit since April 13 for Muncy, who had three hits in 48 at-bats, with 23 strikeouts and 16 walks in between.

The home run was even more impressive given the conditions in the aptly named Windy City:

After Edwin Ríos — the free runner to start the eighth, considered an extra inning in this doubleheader nightcap — scored the go-ahead run, Justin Turner pinch hit after getting a brief respite, providing insurance.

But in the end, the Dodgers stranded their non-homer opportunities, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position themselves. LA has scored three runs or less in 11 of their last 17 games.

Trevor Bauer labored more than any other start since joining the Dodgers, chased in the fifth inning after 90 pitches and a season-high four walks. Jason Heyward tagged him for a solo home run on the first pitch of the fourth inning, but that Bauer didn’t allow another run was no small feat.

The Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position against Bauer, with six of his seven strikeouts coming in those situations, including getting Kris Bryant looking with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning.

Four walks were the most for Bauer since his final start with Cleveland on July 28, 2019. After joining the National League, Bauer averaged 1.6 free passes in his first 27 starts, including no more than two in any of his first six starts this season.

Joc Pederson made Bauer work, fouling off seven pitches and seeing 19 pitches in three plate appearances against him, including a nine-pitch walk in the first inning. For the game, Pederson was 0-2 with a hit by pitch, that walk, and an eight-pitch strikeout.

The Cubs had runners in scoring position in each of the first six innings, and Blake Treinen might have had the greatest escape of the night. The Dodgers right-hander, who entered Tuesday with an average exit velocity (83.4 mph) in the top three percent of MLB, allowed even more soft contact in the sixth, but with two singles against the shift (85.5 mph and 79.9 mph) and a 75.5 mph grounder muffed by Ríos, somehow the bases were loaded with nobody out.

But that’s when Treinen went to work, getting Pederson to pop out, then striking out Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

That set up the heroics of Muncy and Turner, but they were unable to complete the split. The Dodgers since their 13-2 start have lost 12 of their last 16 games, the worst record in the National League during that span. In the American League, only the Tigers (2-13) have been worse.

“Obviously we haven’t won a lot of baseball games in the last couple of weeks. If you look at how we’re playing baseball, it’s just not all-around, all facets of the game, executing,” Roberts said. “You keep other teams in it, they get the big hit, they make the big play. You end up being on the short end.”

“It’s not the first time we’ve gone through this,” said Turner, referring to the Dodgers’ 1-16 stretch late in 2017, when they won 104 games on the way to the World Series. “We’ve got to be proactive about it, do the little things, and find a way to win ballgames.”

Tuesday Game 2 particulars

Home runs: Max Muncy (4), Justin Turner (7); Jason Heyward (3), Javier Báez (8)

WP — Justin Steele (1-0): 1 IP, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

LP — Garrett Cleavinger (0-2): ⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run

Up next

Walker Buehler gets the start as the Dodgers go for their specialty, trying for a win in the series finale to avoid a sweep, something they’ve done in three of their previous four series. Adbert Alzolay starts for the Cubs.