AJ Pollock and Max Muncy each hit two-run home runs in the eighth inning, giving the Dodgers a 6-2 win over the Cubs on Friday night at Dodger Stadium, jolting awake an offense that has been dormant all week.
Ryan Tepera was one of three Chicago relievers to help finish off Thursday night’s no-hitter, the seventh recognized no-hitter in the majors this season, and the fourth straight loss for the Dodgers. But working on his second straight night, Tepera opened the eighth inning of a tie game by walking Gavin Lux on eight pitches. Three pitches later, on Tepera’s 11th pitch of the night, No. 11 did this:
APOLLO 11. pic.twitter.com/gYMjCw6bfE— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 26, 2021
“I knew I hit it well, but I wasn’t sure if I got too under it,” Pollock said. “It was nice seeing Joc [Pederson] run after it and not be able to catch it.”
It was Pollock’s second home run in 19 games since returning from a left hamstring strain, and his first long ball since June 12.
“The hit by AJ, there was a big exhale in the dugout,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Mookie Betts followed with a single, then stole second, and Muncy followed with a two-run home run of his own, the Dodgers’ third of the night.
Six runs and eight hits are highs this week for the Dodgers.
It took a little bit to shake off the rust on Friday, but the Dodgers got their first hit since Wednesday when Cody Bellinger led off the second inning with a single to center field. A stolen base and two ground outs brought Bellinger home, the manufactured run a welcome site for a team that was just 5-for-42 (.119) with runners on base during the four-game losing streak.
Zach McKinstry homered in the third, giving the Dodgers their first lead of the week, in their 39th inning of play.
Runs were still incredibly hard to coax out of Jake Arrieta, who allowed hit hits and three walks in his five innings. Despite all the baserunners, including Max Muncy reaching base on an error in the fifth, the Dodgers stranded the bases loaded twice. They were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Arrieta.
LA’s only hit with a runner in scoring position in the game was Muncy’s home run in the eighth.
“The clubhouse was good today. I mean, what are you going to do. Stuff like that happens,” Pollock said. “We were ready to go today, hit some balls hard. We could have had a couple runs earlier, and it just didn’t happen. When you’re able to score those runs late, it takes a lot of pressure off, for sure.”
Jimmy Nelson was uncharacteristically wild in the seventh inning. The right-hander has been excellent in relief all season for the Dodgers, and especially since returning from the injured list with right forearm inflammation on June 3. In his previous five outings he struck out nine while allowing only one batter to reach base, via walk.
But on Friday, staked to a one-run lead, seven of his first eight pitches were out of the strike zone. After a walk to open the inning, he allowed a single to Jake Marisnick, the first hit allowed by Nelson since May 16. He stayed in to face the required minimum three batters, getting the only out on a sacrifice bunt.
Old friend Joc Pederson delivered a sacrifice fly off Blake Treinen to tie the game.
Treinen was able to get the next four outs as well without any further damage, getting through the top of the eighth keeping the game tied before Pollock’s heroics.
The run off Nelson was the only run allowed by the Dodgers bullpen in five innings. Kenley Jansen, who didn’t pitch in any of the four straight losses, pitched the ninth inning on Friday, even in a non-save situation, for his first appearance since Sunday.
Slowly but surely
Tony Gonsolin is still somewhat limited with shoulder soreness that he called manageable on Thursday, but had his best start of the season to date against the Cubs.
He spent two months on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, and after his second start since returning to the majors felt more soreness, and has been limited by the training staff in his two starts since.
On Sunday in Arizona, Gonsolin allowed only one run in 3⅔ innings but was pulled after just 46 pitches in a planned short outing. On Thursday, Gonsolin said some soreness remained but that his shoulder felt “a lot better” going into this start.
Tony Gonsolin’s 4-seamer
Gonsolin’s four-seam fastball last Sunday averaged just 91.8 mph, down from 94.6 mph in his first two starts and 95.1 mph last season. Against the Cubs his fastball was back up to 92.8 mph, effective enough to setup his splitter, on which he got seven whiffs and five called strikes in just 21 pitches.
“Tony keeps getting better. I loved the sequencing. I loved the change, the way he used it off the fastball,” Roberts said. “Just getting ahead of guys and making pitches when he needed to.”
In four innings, Gonsolin allowed one run — he’s allowed one run in all four starts, totaling 13 innings — and struck out seven. Roberts mentioned before the game Gonsolin would likely be limited to roughly 50-60 pitches, “depending on efficiency and the stress of each inning.”
Considering Gonsolin didn’t allow a hit after the first inning, and retired 12 of his 15 batters faced, he was kept in for 69 pitches.
“We stretched him out a little more today than his last turn,” Roberts said. “Hopefully, in his next turn, we’ll do the same.”
First things first
Kris Bryant took Gonsolin deep in the first inning on Friday night, the fifth straight game in which the Dodgers have allowed at least one home run in the opening frame, the longest such streak for the franchise dating back to at least 1916.
Dodgers pitchers, first inning
|First 71 games||22||9|
|Last 5 games||10||7|
That streak also included the four losses to the Padres and Cubs to open the week, a full time through the rotation of trailing early.
Over the last five games, Dodgers pitchers have allowed seven home runs and 10 total runs in the first inning, compared to only nine home runs and 22 runs allowed in the first inning in the first 71 games of the year.
Home runs: Zach McKinstry (4), AJ Pollock (6), Max Muncy (15); Kris Bryant (15)
WP — Blake Treinen (2-3): 1⅔ IP, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts
LP — Ryan Tepera (0-1): ⅓ IP, 1 hit, 2 runs, 1 walk
After his worst start of the season, allowing six runs in four-plus innings in San Diego, Julio Urías is back on the mound on Saturday afternoon (4:15 p.m. PT, Fox), with Alec Mills — who pitched a no-hitter last season — starting for Chicago.