There was a lot that felt different about Friday’s series opener at Dodger Stadium, what with the game available by streaming only, on Apple TV+ (with its wonderful technical production yet confounding on-screen “probabilities”), and the Dodgers playing a Cleveland team with a brand new name, the Guardians.
But behind the newness of it all was a very competitive, if not infuriating baseball game. The Guardians used an infield single and a sacrifice fly to score their free runner in the 10th inning, beating the Dodgers 2-1 in the series opener in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers dropped their fifth extra-inning game in five tries this season, continuing their scoring woes that go back three weeks.
Anthony Gose, a former major league outfielder now turned left-handed pitcher, was brought in to get the final two outs of the ninth. He then started the 10th by striking out Freddie Freeman before giving way to Enyel De Los Santos. The right-hander induced a groundout by Will Smith and walked Max Muncy before striking out Justin Turner to end it.
The Dodgers have scored two or fewer runs in five of their last six games, and have scored only 3.33 runs per game in their last 18 contests.
MVPs in a pod
Cody Bellinger, who won National League MVP honors in 2019, has enjoyed special success with Clayton Kershaw, the 2014 NL MVP, on the mound this season.
In the second inning against Zach Plesac, Bellinger definitely didn’t come up short on this one, slamming a middle-in fastball 423 feet well into the right field pavilion.
Kershaw has started seven games this season, and Bellinger has at least one extra-base hit in six of them. Overall, Bellinger is 11-for-28 (.393) in Kershaw starts with five home runs and four doubles. In non-Kershaw starts, Bellinger is hitting .184 with three home runs, nine doubles, and two triples.
After Bellinger’s home run, the Dodgers put multiple runners on in six different innings but failed to score.
Rarest of rare
Óscar González entered Friday with a 2.5-percent walk rate that ranked 364th among the 371 major league hitters with at least 70 plate appearances. Guardians manager Terry Francona even joked on the Apple TV+ broadcast that González was allergic to walking.
By contrast, Kershaw came into the game with a 3.9-percent walk rate that was 10th-lowest among 175 pitchers with at least 30 innings. So when González walked in the first inning, that was not expected.
That was the only walk of the night for Kershaw, who got out of that inning and went on to pitch five innings, striking out four. He allowed one run, with two singles and a sacrifice fly bunched together to start the fourth inning. That 26-pitch frame taxed the odometer for Kershaw, who tossed 81 pitches in his second game off the injured list.
Second to none
Andrés Gimenez is a shortstop by trade who has been pressed into second base duty more often this season in the majors. His defense plays just about anywhere, with the 23-year-old making his presence felt on multiple occasions Friday night.
He snagged a 105-mph line drive by Freddie Freeman in the first, jumped to grab another liner from Eddy Alvarez in the second inning, and was alert enough to reach a grounder that caromed off first baseman Josh Naylor to throw out Max Muncy in the third inning.
The expected batting average on those plays, per Statcast, was .680, .850, and .420, respectively.
Even when Giménez didn’t make the play, like when Bellinger reached on what was charged as an error by Giménez, the Dodgers were so used to those balls being outs that Muncy was thrown out by a mile trying to run to third base, apparently thinking it was unoccupied in the shift, only to find catcher Luke Maile covering.
Despite playing only roughly half of Cleveland’s games at second base — Friday was Giménez’s 32nd start there in 2022 — he ranks second in the majors in both Defensive Runs Saved (+8) and Outs Above Average (+6) at the position, with those numbers coming before his glovework prowess in the series opener.
In the seventh, Freeman hit another sharp line drive, but this 106-mph smash (with a .350 expected batting average) was fielded with aplomb by Giménez, who started an inning-ending double play.
Home run: Cody Bellinger (8)
WP — Anthony Gose (3-0): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
LP — Evan Phillips (1-3): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Sv — Enyel De Los Santos (1): ⅔ IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Julio Urías starts for the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon (4:15 p.m., Fox), with Guardians starter Cal Quantrill making his third career appearance at Dodger Stadium, where his father Paul pitched in 92 games, including in 2002-2003 for the Dodgers.