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Dodgers finding roles, continue roll with win over the Pirates

LA has 9 wins in its last 10 games

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Beaty took advantage of only his second start of August with two hits, including the tie-breaking two-run double helped the Dodgers to yet another win over the Pirates. The 4-3 win for Los Angeles is their 15th straight over Pittsburgh.

Despite intermittent playing time, Beaty has navigated his way to hitting .267/.365/.383 with a 112 wRC+ on the season. His two-out, two-run double off Cody Pence broke a 2-2 tie, and gave Beaty six hits in his last 10 at-bats.

On the season, Beaty has more starts in the outfield (27) than at first base (16), where he started on Tuesday. But since the July 22 arrival of Billy McKinney — who manager Dave Roberts said is “a couple of grades better than anyone else we could put out there” in the outfield — five of Beaty’s seven starts have come at first base.

Beaty’s found his role off the bench, his 41 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter are 17 more than any other player on the team. Despite rarely starting, Beaty has still played in 35 of the last 38 games.

“Matt’s been a pro. All guys want more at-bats, and his role on the club is to play sporadically, get spot starts, and take tough at-bats off the bench,” Roberts said. “Today, he really fought and competed.”

Adapting and finding a role, even if it’s sometimes a square peg in a round hole, seems to be commonplace for the 2021 Dodgers, who have used a franchise-record 57 different players this season.

David Price made three spot starts in May and June as part of bullpen games, but was used basically as a reliever until right before the All-Star break, when Clayton Kershaw was placed on the injured list. Tuesday was Price’s seventh real start of the season, the kind with proper rest and side work in between outings.

He’s still been effective in this stretched out role, with a 3.66 ERA and 4.27 FIP since July 9, compared to 3.58 ERA and 3.76 FIP before that. Price allowed two runs in 4⅔ innings on Tuesday, which is right in line with his previous starts.

Price faced 19 batters on Tuesday, with a familiar pattern. He allowed one hit in his first time through the batting order, keeping the Pirates scoreless. After that wasn’t all that bad, but the two other hits he allowed were bunched together to start the fourth inning, and both scored.

David Price as a starter, 2021

Situation PA BA/OBP/SLG HR BB% K%
Situation PA BA/OBP/SLG HR BB% K%
First time thru lineup 63 .179/.258/.304 1 7.9% 19.0%
2nd & 3rd times thru 64 .262/.297/.475 3 4.7% 14.1%
In 7 starts since joining the rotation on July 9

“My body feels good. My arm, elbow, shoulder all feel good as well,” Price said. “Getting back into my routine in between starts, everything feels good and I’m ready to go.”

After averaging 119 innings from 2017-19, seasons interrupted by elbow and wrist injuries, Price opted out of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, he’s been willing to pitch in any role asked of him, ranging from long relief to high-leverage situations to starting, and that he’s been generally effective is a plus. But he’s pressed into a starter’s role as a necessity right now because of all the pitching injuries.

The Dodgers don’t have much of a choice at the moment, but to fill innings wherever they can.

“I can’t say enough about David,” Roberts said. “I could go on and on about him as a teammate, just being unselfish.”

The first three relievers who followed Price — Corey Knebel, Phil Bickford, and Blake Treinen — retired all 10 batters they faced.

Kenley Jansen struggled in the ninth inning, allowing the now nightly Yoshi Tsutsugo double, a walk, and a single to trim the lead to just one run. But Jansen got the final two outs to close out the win.

Dodgers pitching has allowed three or fewer runs 10 times in 14 games in August.

The ball finds you

Price might have been through five innings for the third time this season were it not for a Gavin Lux error. That was one of two throwing errors in six innings for Lux, playing his first major league game at third base.

“He hasn’t played a lot of third,” Roberts said. “I appreciate him being willing to take on the challenge, and that’s growth for him.”

Lux was filling in for Justin Turner, who got a partial rest day. It was the first day back after missing 25 games on the injured list for Lux, whose first three professional games at the hot corner came during his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Finding spots here and there is the avenue for playing time now for Lux, who started 75 of 85 games while active before his latest injured list stint. But the Dodgers have Corey Seager and Trea Turner entrenched in the middle infield now, playing Lux’s two main positions.

Roberts said Lux will start at second base on Wednesday.

Tuesday particulars

Home runs: none

WP — Corey Knebel (2-0): 1⅓ IP, zeroes

LP — Cody Ponce (0-3): 2 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Sv — Kenley Jansen (25): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Up next

After getting 8⅔ total innings from the starter/bulk pitcher in the first two games of the series, another bullpen game awaits on Wednesday (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), with Mitch White expected to be the bulk pitcher in the series finale. Right-hander JT Brubaker starts for Pittsburgh.