We knew Saturday night in Phoenix would likely be decided by the bullpens. But it wasn’t the team deploying the bullpen game that ran into trouble. The Dodgers pounce on their first glimpse of Diamondbacks relievers in an 8-3 win at Chase Field.
Justin Turner’s two-run shot in the seventh inning broke a tie, on the second pitch from the first Arizona relief pitcher, Stefan Crichton.
Crichton, pitching in relief of starter Merrill Kelly, face the required three batters in his outing, and allowed hits to all three. In came lefty Ryan Buchter, who allowed one of Cody Bellinger’s two infield singles on the night to load the bases.
Albert Pujols for the second straight night delivered a pinch-hit single, then Billy McKinney’s groundout brought home an insurance run, the fourth tally of the inning. Pujols added yet another RBI single in the ninth.
“You’re going to look back at this game, and JT’s home run was obviously a big hit, but guys keeping the line moving, using the whole field was unbelievable,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I think for me, the highlight was that Pujols at-bat [in the ninth]. You’ve got infield in, man on third base, you’re just fighting. Fighting to move that ball forward and drive in a run. It wasn’t pretty, a ball up and in and getting jammed. But that just showed our desire to win a baseball game.”
For all the juggling the Dodgers have done with their lineup of late with various injuries, their five reliable constants in July — Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, Turner, Will Smith, and AJ Pollock — batted in the first five spots in the batting order on Saturday, and all had at least two hits. They combined for 11 hits, six runs scored, and four runs batted in.
Hot Dodgers in July
An underrated aspect of that quintet was combining for eight stolen bases without getting caught in July. That included three stolen bases on Saturday — Muncy stole second, Pollock stole third, and Taylor stole home.
Mitch White set the tone with one of his best big league appearances, pitching 3⅔ innings with five strikeouts to open the bullpen game. That included nine straight batters retired before a walk of Asdrubal Cabrera in the fourth, followed by Kole Calhoun taking him deep.
Garrett Cleavinger, recalled before the game, recorded two outs of his own but allowed a game-tying homer to Nick Ahmed, providing the 3-3 score that remained until the Dodgers’ seventh-inning rally.
Victor Gonzalez got out of Cleavinger’s jam in the fifth with a double play, and Dodgers relievers retired 12 of the final 13 batters of the game, and thanks to a pair of double plays, faced the minimum and recorded 14 outs.
Gonzalez and Alex Vesia were both pitching for a third straight day, with Vesia earning the win after a scoreless sixth. Blake Treinen and Joe Kelly also pitched scoreless frames on Saturday, both pitching for a second straight night.
“I told our guys to tip our caps to our bullpen, out there grinding. Some guys are going three days in a row,” Turner said. “They find ways to get outs, keep us in games, and give us a chance. Hopefully we’re getting close to getting everyone back, and it’s going to be exciting to see our full roster out there.”
Home runs: Justin Turner (19); Kole Calhoun (3), Nick Ahmed (3)
WP — Alex Vesia (1-1): 1 IP, 1 hit
LP — Merrill Kelly (7-8): 6⅓ IP, 8 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
A more traditional pitching plan is in store for the Dodgers on Sunday, with Julio Urías on the mound in the series finale (1:10 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA). Left-hander Caleb Smith starts for Arizona.