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Dodgers offense goes boom, does just enough to rescue another bad bullpen performance

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8-run inning helps build a cushion horrific relief

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Inconsistency has been the hallmark of the Dodgers offense this season, but Saturday night came out on the positive end of the spectrum. The scoring in the Dodgers’ most prolific inning of the season began with a painful spark, and helped build a cushion against a terrible bullpen in a 14-11 win over the Angels in Anaheim.

Neither team had a hit through the first three innings, but after a Mookie Betts walk to open the fourth, Corey Seager singled to put runners at the corners against Dylan Bundy. With one out, Max Muncy hit a grounder up the third base line that was rolling foul as Betts retreated to third base. José Rojas tagged Betts just in case, but in doing so got him in a delicate, apparently cup-less spot.

Betts was able to smile through the discomfort, and had more reason to smile a few pitches later when Muncy singled him home for the first run of the game.

The Dodgers found their potency after they broke the seal, adding two more singles and a Matt Beaty double to chase Bundy with four runs in, but they weren’t done yet.

The inning reached the sublime once Steve Cishek entered, beginning with Joe Maddon’s inexplicable decision to intentionally walk Gavin Lux with first base open, loading the bases with one out. After hitting the ball hard against Bundy, Cishek’s first three batters faced all had Treinen-esque soft contact.

Hit ‘em where they ain’t

Batter Exit velo (mph) xBA Result
Batter Exit velo (mph) xBA Result
Austin Barnes 80.9 0.090 RBI single
Mookie Betts 60.5 0.090 2-run single
Corey Seager 52.2 0.190 RBI single
part of 4th-inning Dodgers rally against Steve Cishek Source: Baseball Savant

All three were singles, including a two-run cue-shot single from Betts, who didn’t belt it but that’s allowed after getting below-the-belted earlier in the frame.

The fourth inning also provided many chances for the Dodgers to turn around a season-long issue. Entering Saturday, the Dodgers had a runner on third base with less than two outs 92 times this season, by far the most opportunities in the league (the next-highest team had 79 such chances). But only 30 scored, a 32.6-percent rate that ranked dead last in the majors.

Last year, for instance, the Dodgers scored 54-percent of those runners, sixth in MLB.

But in the fourth inning alone, with the merry-go-round nature of the rally, the Dodgers actually put six different runners on third base with less than two outs. All six scored.

Eight runs in the fourth marked the Dodgers highest-scoring inning (beating the six runs they scored in the eighth inning April 28 against Cincinnati), but then added five more runs in the fifth.

The Dodgers have seen some extremes in the first nine games of their 10-game road trip. Two wins featured 16 and now 14 runs scored, while the seven losses combined for 18 runs.

All that scoring removed any of the pressure off Clayton Kershaw, making his first regular season start on three days rest of his career. He didn’t need nearly that much support, allowing only two singles and a walk in his five scoreless innings.

He was pulled after only 71 pitches, after an animated dugout discussion between Kershaw and Dave Roberts in the top of the sixth that was shown on the SportsNet LA broadcast.

“Five innings is nothing to write home about, honestly. But the team, and Doc, felt that was what’s best coming off short rest,” Kershaw said. “Any time you pitch five innings, you don’t feel like you did your job, but in this situation it seemed to make the most sense.”

Armed with a 13-run lead, Roberts turned to the low end of the bullpen totem pole, and Dennis Santana, Mitch White, and Garrett Cleavinger showed very little to suggest they should be in the majors right now.

Santana retired one of his six batters faced and allowed four runs in the seventh. White allowed five hits and a walk to his 11 batters faced, allowing six unearned runs with a little help from an error by Austin Barnes, playing second base as three starters were already out of the game by then.

Cleavinger relieved White with two out and two on in the seventh, and immediately allowed a home run to Rojas, turning a once 13-run lead into a three-run game. What looked like a sure night off for the high-leverage relievers went out the window.

“You’ve got to come in and throw strikes. The game, a 13-run lead, we’ve got to be able close out four innings. There’s no other way to look at that,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I wasn’t pleased with the fact that you’ve got to get leverage guys into a ball game.”

Victor Gonzalez retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, and Blake Treinen struck out two Angels in the ninth, recording his first save of the season. He’s the fifth Dodgers pitcher with a save this season.

The win, even though much closer than expected after the early lead, snapped a four-game Dodgers losing streak.

“Obviously you don’t want that to happen, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Betts said. “We’ll take any win we can get.”

At the very least, this game helped show why a bullpen game with the current Dodgers personnel is untenable, and should be avoided at all costs.

Notes

  • Betts had two singles and a walk, driving in a season high four runs, matching the RBI total in his last 11 games.
  • All nine Dodgers starters scored at least once, the 63rd time in franchise history that’s been done, and the first since October 2, 2019 against Colorado.
  • This was the first 14-11 game, win or loss, in Dodgers history, at least in the modern era (since 1901).
  • DJ Peters hit a fly ball down the left field line in the seventh inning, just out of the glove of a sliding Jon Jay for a double, and the first major league hit for Peters. Two outs later, driven home by Muncy single, Peters scored his first major league run.

Saturday particulars

Home run: José Rojas (1)

WP — Clayton Kershaw (5-3): 5 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

LP — Dylan Bundy (0-4): 3⅓ IP, 5 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Sv — Blake Treinen (1): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts

Up next

Trevor Bauer starts on Sunday afternoon as the Dodgers try for their first series win in three weeks (1:07 p.m.; SportsNet LA, Bally Sports West, MLB Network), with lefty Jose Quintana starting for the Angels.