LOS ANGELES — Even when the Dodgers were sloppy and bad, and at times didn’t seem to know where the ball was going, they still managed to win, seemingly the only option for this team that collects victories in bulk. A furious five-run rally in the eighth inning sealed the deal for victory No. 103, 6-5 over the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers made two errors, had a few other defensive lapses, and even sacrifice bunted down four runs in the eighth inning. These things happen over the course of a season, which is why it’s so rare for a team to win as many games as the Dodgers have.
“We’re not going to give up and quit on games,” said catcher Austin Barnes, who homered during the eighth-inning rally. “It’s easy when he have kind of a big lead like this to take it easy, but it’s a good sign that we keep going.”
The Dodgers had runners on in each of the first eight innings, but after a Trayce Thompson sacrifice fly in the opening frame they didn’t cash any of them in until Barnes hit a two-run home run.
Barnes also singled twice earlier in the game. Since the beginning of August, Barnes is hitting .365/.421/.654 in 15 games. His eight home runs ties a career high for Barnes, who also did so in 2017, in 76 more plate appearances than this year.
“He takes care of the pitching staff, and he’s gotten a lot of big hits,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It was really good to see him have a nice day offensively.”
Barnes’ home run cut Arizona’s lead to two, then the Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out thanks to an error and two walks. Will Smith, pinch-hitting, and Thompson singled home runs to tie the game, still with no outs.
But then Chris Taylor and pinch-hitter Mookie Betts struck out, leaving it up to Miguel Vargas, who started the inning by reaching on an error, beating out an throw to first base. Vargas again put the ball in play, this time past third baseman Josh Rojas for the game-winning RBI single.
“There’s a lot of fight in this team. It wasn’t all sexy three-run homers, it was grinding ABs, putting balls in play, taking walks and making things happen,” said Justin Turner, who had three hits and will start at designated hitter in the nightcap.
Vargas is hitting .172/.200/.207 in limited duty, starting just five of 18 games since getting called up in September.
“He’s had an outstanding year and a lot of clout behind him,” Turner said. “When you go from playing everyday in the minor leagues to a role position that you have to learn how to do, that’s one of the hardest things in all of sports to do.”
The inexperience for Vargas showed in left field, where he was playing just his 26th professional game at the position, all coming this year.
With two outs in the fourth inning, Daulton Varsho slammed his bat down in discuss at his presumed flyout to left field to end the inning — the expected batting average on the ball, per Statcast, was .010 — only to see Vargas take a circuitous route and watch the ball land for an RBI single.
“Vargas hasn’t played a lot of left field, and he just broke back on the ball,” Roberts said.
In the fifth, Vargas got to a single, when whirled and threw to the general vicinity of third base. A covering Trea Turner, diving off the bag to try and catch the errant throw, was instead hit on the back or side by the ball after it ricocheted off Rojas’ helmet. The ball after hitting both players, rolled into the camera well in the Dodgers dugout to bring home another run. Turner stayed in the game for the remainder of the inning, but was replaced by Hanser Alberto at shortstop in the sixth.
Turner is back in the lineup at shortstop for Game 2. Roberts called his removal from the opener “precautionary.”
In between adventures, Vargas did track down a line drive from Ketel Marte on the warning track.
It wasn’t pretty early, and not just because of the defense. The D-backs hit around Michael Grove, who combined with Ryan Pepiot to serve as bullpen saviors by combining to pitch the first eight innings, lessening the workload of the rest of the staff, especially with another game on the docket Tuesday night.
Grove pitched the first five innings and struck out seven, the most in his five major league outings. But he also allowed nine hits, five for extra-base hits, which is not the best way to make a living. Arizona scored five runs against Grove, three of them earned, and weren’t retired in order until Pepiot got them 1-2-3 in the seventh inning.
“Grove through the ball really, really well,” Barnes said. ” The way he was throwing, it wasn’t indicative of his numbers.”
Pepiot allowed a single and walk in his first three batters after taking over in the sixth, but then recovered to retire eight straight to end his night. With three scoreless innings, Pepiot earned the win.
Tuesday Game 1 particulars
Home runs: Austin Barnes (8); Daulton Varsho (26), Christian Walker (35)
WP — Ryan Pepiot (3-0): 3 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
LP — Kevin Ginkel (1-1): 0+ IP, 3 runs (1 earned runs), 2 walks
Sv — Chris Martin (2): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
Game 2 of the doubleheader is Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. (SportsNet LA). Tyler Anderson is back from paternity leave to make his 139th career start. For the Diamondbacks, Drey Jameson and his 0.00 ERA makes his second major league start.