Citi Field needed extra innings to decide things again on Saturday, and for the second time in as many nights the Dodgers pulled out a win in 10 innings over the Mets. Cody Bellinger was the hero in this one, with an RBI double down the right field line in a 2-1 win.
On a night the Dodgers desperately wanted to avoid extended bullpen use, the three relievers they did use were fantastic. Alex Vesia retired all four batters he faced, including a hop-inducing strikeout of Pete Alonso in the eighth. Phil Bickford got the final two outs of the ninth on five pitches, then struck out his only two batters faced in the 10th, in his sixth appearance in the last nine days.
“They’re really coming into their own and being comfortable in their own skin as big league ballplayers,” manager Dave Roberts said of Vesia and Bickford. “They’ve played a huge part in where we’re at, including tonight, obviously. It’s really fun to see guys who, before the season started, I didn’t know who they were, and to play such an impactful role for our club is really fun to see.”
Corey Knebel was brought in to face the left-handed Brandon Nimmo, and retired him on an easy groundout to first base to end it.
The win was the second straight extra-inning victory for the Dodgers, but the scoreless 10th inning was the team’s first scoreless extra inning since April 25, snapping a string of 15 consecutive extra innings giving up at least one run.
Walker Buehler gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed on Saturday, even if he was overshadowed most of the night. Buehler lasted seven innings, struck out 10, allowing only a run on four hits and three walks. That lowered his National League-leading ERA to 2.09.
“He knows how to pitch. He’s already got nasty stuff, but he’s just super intelligent, knows what to do with the ball,” Bellinger said of the Dodgers ace. “That’s a good recipe right there.”
Buehler has performance bonuses built into his contract which would add to his base salary for 2022 should he finish in the top three of Cy Young Award balloting this year. But on Saturday, the concern was more immediate, especially with four of the nine relievers unavailable because of heavy usage.
“We’ve got to make the playoffs, man. My thing is to be a piece of that equation and push us to where we want to go,” Buehler said. “The individual stuff is cool, but when the team isn’t where we want to be at, it’s kind of meaningless.”
“The great ones can compartmentalize once they get into a game — in Walker’s case pitch in tonight’s game — his only focus is the ballgame,” Roberts said before the game. “All that other stuff will take care of itself.”
The run off Buehler was a solo home run by Michael Conforto in the fourth inning, the first homer allowed by Buehler in nine starts. The last was June 24 at Dodger Stadium, when the Cubs no-hit the Dodgers.
The Mets were trying to duplicate the feat.
Taijuan Walker cruised in taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He got six outs on the first or second pitch, and had only 73 pitches through six.
The only hard-hit ball against Walker — defined as having an exit velocity of at least 95 mph — in the first six innings was a 95.2-mph grounder into the shift in the fourth inning by Max Muncy, an out that had an expected batting average of just .270.
But the first three batters of the seventh all hit the ball hard.
Dodgers 7th inning against Taijuan Walker
|Batter||Exit velo (mph)||Expected BA||Result|
|Batter||Exit velo (mph)||Expected BA||Result|
|Will Smith||104.4||1.000||Home run|
After a Muncy flyout, Will Smith broke up the no-hitter and the shutout with a game-tying home run, blasted 444 feet to left field. It was the second home run of the series for Smith, who provided the game-winner in the 10th inning on Friday, giving him 24 RBI in 22 games since the All-Star break.
Corey Seager followed with a double off the left field wall, then two batters later Chris Taylor coaxed a walk out of Walker to chase the Mets starter. Left-hander Aaron Loup got Bellinger to chase outside of the zone, striking out to keep the go-ahead runs on base to end the threat.
Buehler ran into his own trouble in the seventh inning, allowing a single off the mound and a walk to open the frame. But he rebounded to strike out catcher Tomás Nido and pinch-hitter (and old friend) Travis Blankenhorn, giving Buehler double-digit strikeouts for the third time this season. Buehler then induced a foul popout by Nimmo to end the frame.
Justin Turner pinch hit in the top of the 10th, and struck out in his first appearance in five games since injuring his left groin. He also played third base for all of two outs in the bottom of the inning before he was removed in a double switch.
Home runs: Will Smith (17); Michael Conforto (8)
WP — Phil Bickford (2-1): 1⅓ IP, 2 strikeouts
LP — Yennsy Díaz (0-2): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run, 2 strikeouts
Sv — Corey Knebel (3): 1 up, 1 down
The Dodgers go for the series sweep on Sunday Night Baseball (4:08 p.m. PT, ESPN) with Max Scherzer on the mound, making his third start for Los Angeles. Carlos Carrasco makes his fourth start of the season for the Mets.