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Dodgers complete improbable comeback with a balk to beat Astros

LA’s winning 8th-inning rally included 4 walks, a balk, and a ball that disappeared

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

A game of swings turned on a twitch, with the Dodgers scoring the winning run on a balk to complete a literally wild comeback to stun the Astros 8-7 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers once led by three, but trailed by four in the seventh when David Peralta hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run to give the offense new life.

Bryan Abreu began the eighth by walking three hitters to load the bases. Jason Heyward hit one deep enough to right center to score one run on a sacrifice fly, and Will Smith properly read Kyle Tucker’s sliding catch by tagging and getting to third base with one out.

For a brief instance, that decision seemed moot when James Outman continued his mini-hot streak with a long drive that disappeared into the sun at the right field wall. Even Outman was confused running the bases, thinking he might have hit a go-ahead three-run home run, but instead his ball somehow lodged itself into a crevice in between the fence and padding in the wall for a game-tying ground-rule double.

Ryne Stanek relieved Abreu and struck out Peralta, but then twitched his right leg before stepping off the mound. Second base umpire immediately called a balk, the first of Stanek’s career, bringing home the go-ahead run.

It was the first balk in Stanek’s seven-year career, and he was understandably upset about it, getting ejected once the inning was over. Stanek got his money’s worth, while also providing an easy lip reading course in the process. Earmuffs!

That capped a wild, back-and-forth affair, but only after Evan Phillips restored some normalcy with a scoreless ninth. He allowed a leadoff single, but then started a 1-6-3 double play turned expertly by Mookie Betts, who started the game in right field but ended at second base.

At the plate

Betts has been hitting leadoff home runs in bulk, with already seven this year to open a game, matching his full-season totals from both 2021 and 2022. He nearly hit an eighth on Saturday — and second game in a row — only to be robbed on a leaping grab by Corey Julks at the top of the bullpen wall in left field.

But that only temporarily delayed the offense. Smith and Heyward each homered with two outs in the first off Ronel Blanco, with a walk to J.D. Martinez in between for an early 3-0 lead.

But Blanco settled down, not allowing another hit after Heyward’s blast, retiring 16 of his final 17 batters faced to get through six innings.

After getting held without a home run during last weekend’s Giants series followed by Tuesday’s opener in Anaheim — a four-game powerless streak that was the longest drought since 2016 — the Dodgers have six home runs in their last three games.

Croked numbers

Bobby Miller succumbed to a big inning for his second straight start, which erased that early Dodgers advantage.

With a two-run lead, Miller was having a good day on the mound in limiting Houston to one run through four innings, so much so that on the Fox broadcast he was seen standing in the dugout with his glove on during the bottom of the fourth, seemingly itching to return to the mound.

He did not record another out.

Miller allowed a single then a five-pitch walk to the nine hitter to open the fifth inning, getting back to the top of the Astros lineup for a third time. Jose Altuve beat out a drag bunt to first base when Miller was late to cover the bag. That loaded the bases with nobody out, and was the symbolic equivalent of last Saturday’s bloop single over an frustratingly drawn-in infield that opened the floodgates for San Francisco.

This time, Alex Bregman made Miller pay immediately, hitting a fastball into the bullpen for a go-ahead grand slam, the first time the Dodgers have trailed this week.

But that was followed by a walk to Tucker, a double by José Abreu, and a single by Yainer Diaz to bring home another run. The first seven batters Miller faced in the fifth inning all reached and five scored, sending Miller back to the dugout trailing 6-3.

It could have been even worse, with two runners still on, but Yency Almonte worked around a walk to strand them all, including a ground ball double play to end the inning.

Miller threw his two-seam fastball 46 times in 80 pitches, only the second time in six starts he’s thrown one pitch more than half the time. But he only got two swinging strikes on the pitch, and four of the five hits by Houston in the fifth inning came on the two-seamer.

The bullpen continued its resurgent week, with Ryan Braiser, Phil Bickford, and Phillips following Almonte, combining for five innings allowing only one run. Bickford retired all six batters he faced, striking out four in his first game back off the injured list to earn the victory.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: Will Smith (11), Jason Heyward (8), David Peralta (5); Alex Bregman (11)

WP — Phil Bickford (2-2): 2 IP, 4 strikeouts

LP — Bryan Abreu (2-2): ⅓ IP, 1 hit, 3 runs, 3 walks

Sv — Evan Phillips (10): 1 IP, 1 hit

Up next

The series wraps up with another nationally-televised game on Sunday night (4:10 p.m., ESPN). Tony Gonsolin starts the series finale for the Dodgers, facing Astros rookie Hunter Brown.