Runs were at a premium on Thursday, at least until the ninth inning. Craig Kimbrel has his latest rough outing in the top of the frame, allowing a go-ahead homer, but old friend Reyes Moronta had it worse, taking the loss in the bottom of the inning. Mookie Betts’ walk-off single gave the Dodgers a hard-fought series win and a 104th victory of the season, this one 3-2 over the D-backs.
Moronta allowed a double to start the frame on a pitch Cody Bellinger hit from nearly his shoe tops to the right field wall. With one out, an intentional walk and an infield single loaded the bases and ended Moronta’s night with just one out.
Against Joe Mantiply, Max Muncy beat out an infield single up the third base line to bring home the equalizer, then Justin Turner struck out to set the stage for the pinch-hitter Betts.
Can Mookie win it? You Betts! pic.twitter.com/WA8fhN3vJO— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 23, 2022
This was Betts’ first walk-off hit as a Dodger, though it should be noted he also had a walk-off fielder’s choice on July 6 to beat the Rockies, too.
That made a winner of Craig Kimbrel, who allowed a go-ahead home run to Christian Walker in the top of the ninth inning, in his latest misadventure on the mound.
Dodgers relievers retired the first eight batters they faced on Thursday, including six by strikeout, combining with Julio Urías to match wits with Arizona’s Zac Gallen, who had the best-pitched game against the Dodgers all season.
Kimbrel began the ninth by hitting pinch-hitter Jake McCarthy, a disputed call upheld on review. It was Kimbrel’s third hit by pitch in his last two games. McCarthy then tried to steal second but came off the bag, giving the Dodgers temporary relief. But Kimbrel’s next pitch was hammered 435 feet to centerfield by Walker, who has hit five of his 36 home runs against Los Angeles this season.
After eight consecutive outings with a 1-2-3 inning, in by far his best stretch of the season, Kimbrel has allowed five runs in 3⅔ innings in his last four games, with three strikeouts, two walks, three hit batters, and two final-inning go-ahead home runs to the D-backs.
Twelve pitchers this season have pitched in at least ten games for the Dodgers. Only three of them have an ERA that starts with a four. One of them, Justin Bruihl, was optioned earlier Thursday. The other two — KImbrel and Moronta — pitched the ninth, both allowing go-ahead runs.
With two of the stingiest pitchers in the sport on the mound, it took the extraordinary for runs to come early.
Gavin Lux’s throwing error on a sure out in the third inning but two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Urías was able to work around the mess, keeping the damage to one run on a sacrifice fly in a 21-pitch frame.
Gallen, who pitched 44⅓ consecutive scoreless innings in a streak that ended just two starts ago, retired his first eleven batters of the game until Will Smith lined a ball just out of the reach of and past a diving Stone Garrett in left field. The ball rolled to the wall, giving Smith his first career triple at Dodger Stadium. Then Max Muncy lined a ball that hit chalk down the right field line for a double to tie the game.
With a runner on second and one out in the sixth, Urías was pulled after a long conversation with Dave Roberts on the mound, at just 89 pitches. Christian Walker was due up, and it doesn’t take much to remember last postseason when the three healthy Dodgers starting pitchers all ran out of gas in the NLCS, so there was an element of saving a bullet or two for October.
NL ERA leaders
Evan Phillips ably escaped the jam as he has done all year, this time by striking out both batters faced.
Urías, to his credit, and like he has over the years while having his innings limited, didn’t put up much of a visible fuss, but it all but ended any chances of him winning 20 games for a second year in a row. He’ll have to settle for 12 runs allowed in his last 12 starts, over 74⅓ innings, and a National League-leading 2.25 ERA.
Then again, Urías earning a win would have required a second run against Gallen while Urías was still in there, which proved to be too much to ask. Gallen followed the two-hit blip in the fourth by retiring his next 13 batters faced.
Gallen set career highs with 13 strikeouts in his eight innings, allowing only those two hits. He’s allowed just 11 runs in his last 12 starts over 78⅓ innings, and ranks third on the season with a 2.46 ERA.
Home run: Christian Walker (36)
WP — Craig Kimbrel (6-6): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP — Reyes Moronta (1-1): ⅓ IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 intentional walk
The Dodgers conclude their homestand with a weekend series against the Cardinals, and old friend Albert Pujols sitting on 698 home runs. Andrew Heaney starts the opener for the Dodgers on Friday (one last go around on Apple TV+), with left-hander José Quintana starting for the Cardinals.