For a Dodgers fan base which endured numerous squandered opportunities by Craig Kimbrel to properly fulfill the closer role in 2022, it was poetic to wrap up a series sweep against the Phillies, with a Max Muncy walk-off grand slam against the right-hander.
Wednesday’s win was hard fought, as the Phillies scored the first five runs of the game, but hard work by the bullpen, and the offense one through nine was just enough, to drive this 10-6 win, ending a perfect homeland.
A collective effort offensively against one of the game’s best
The Dodgers certainly had a pass for a loss in today’s matchup. The team was coming off a five game winning streak, it had a pitcher making his debut, with Aaron Nola on the opposite side.
Gavin Stone struggled, the Phillies got off to a five-run lead, but persistently, the Dodgers hung in there, and managed to turn this one around.
Mookie Betts took advantage of the bottom of the order setting the table, and hit a run-scoring single in the fourth.
In the following inning, Miguel Vargas came up with a runner on, and capitalized, hitting a sky-scrapping home run to cut the lead in half, to 5-3.
In the seventh inning, with Aaron Nola still out there, Chris Taylor saw a bloop single turned into a triple after Nick Castellanos outran the ball, which closed the book on Nola.
Freeman came up as the go-ahead run after a Mookie Betts walk, and just barely missed a three-run home run, instead settling for a sacrifice fly to deep right, leaving the ball game at 5-4.
The Dodgers did a lot of damage against the Phillies' bullpen in the first two games of this series, but it had yet to face their big guns, particularly José Alvarado who came into this game with 24 strikeouts in 12⅓ innings, and a single earned run allowed.
Alvarado came on in the eighth, and after a Muncy out, the bottom of the lineup surprisingly jumped on the southpaw with three consecutive batted balls over 100 mph.
Miguel Rojas and James Outman got in scoring position with a single and double, and after the infield in, prevented the tying run on a Taylor groundout, the hero was Austin Barnes, of all people, with the go-ahead pinch-hit two-run single.
The Philles scratched a run off Brusdar Graterol to take this game into the bottom of the ninth, but with Kimbrel coming on, it created the ideal scenario for one of the best moments of the season.
Taylor led off the frame with a single, and promptly stole the easiest bag of his career, Kimbrel managed to strike out Betts, but after a couple of walks to Freeman (intentional) and Will Smith, the stage was set for Muncy.
GRAND SLAM. WALK-OFF. MAX MUNCY. pic.twitter.com/50ekZiteYI— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 3, 2023
The word ambush comes to mind, as Muncy squared this one up down the left-field line, for his MLB-leading 12th home run the year.
Growing pains of a challenging MLB debut
Whether you’re facing the A’s or the Astros, a debut in the big leagues will be an event unlike any other for a starter, and in today’s afternoon, Stone had a rather difficult task against the Bryce Harper-led Phillies.
In the first inning, things outside of his control conspired against Stone, as Vargas failed to catch what ended up being a double by Trea Turner, and Muncy committed an error. After a couple of walks later, Stone minimized the damage at one run.
Overall, the right-hander alternated stressful innings with easy ones, tossing 77 pitches in his outing, but seldom he was in a groove, allowing five runs (four earned) over the same number of innings.
Whether this was a one-off start or not, the organization killed two birds with one Stone, giving Dustin May and the rest of the staff an extra day of rest and giving Stone a taste of the big leagues.
Another under the radar fine performance for the bullpen
These are the sort of games you win because of your bullpen, but don’t quite register as much as others. At one point, the Dodgers trailed by five, with the bullpen set to cover that many innings.
Victor González, Yency Almonte, and Caleb Ferguson each pitched in four or more outs, keeping the Phillies off the board, giving the offense enough time to come back into this one, and although Graterol coughed up the lead forcing a walk-off in the ninth, that run was mostly a product of bad luck on a blooper.
Home runs: Miguel Vargas (2), Max Muncy (12)
WP — Brusdar Graterol (1-1): ⅔ IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP — Craig Kimbrel (1-1): ⅓ IP, 2 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
The Dodgers will travel to San Diego to face the Padres for the first time in 2023. Reigning National League pitcher of the month Clayton Kershaw starts Friday night (6:40 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), with right-hander Joe Musgrove on the mound for the home team.