Chris Taylor’s sixth-inning grand slam turned Monday night’s game around, fueling the Dodgers’ 6-4 comeback win over the Orioles in the opener of an interleague series at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
With the Dodgers facing a run of right-handed pitchers, Taylor didn’t start any of the three games against the Mets after getting activated from the injured list on Friday. But he did play in two of the games and got two hits in four at-bats, including a double. Both hits came off right-handers.
So did the grand slam on Monday, hit off reliever Bryan Baker with two outs in the inning after fouling off his first four pitches, turning a two-run Dodger deficit into a two-run lead.
The Dodgers have nine grand slams this season, most in the majors. Taylor, who started at shortstop and finished in left field on Monday, has two of them, including one on June 15 against the White Sox that tied the game. In his career, Taylor has six grand slams, tied for sixth-most in Dodgers franchise history.
Taylor’s Monday slam capped a five-run sixth inning that began with cruising starter Grayson Rodriguez on the mound. But the Orioles rookie right-hander did not retire any of his three batters faced in the frame. Freddie Freeman tripled over the leaping Aaron Hicks, Will Smith singled him home, then Max Muncy fell behind 1-2 but walked to force Rodriguez from the game.
Baker got two flyouts to near a potential escape, with Baltimore still leading by a pair. He even got ahead of Jason Heyward 0-2 before walking him on seven pitches.
The learning curve
Emmet Sheehan is the second of three consecutive rookie starters in the Dodgers rotation at the moment, and growing pains are expected. Sheehan’s stat line was a pedestrian four runs in five innings, but the right-hander showed growth in turning things around after what was nearly a disastrous start to his Monday night.
He allowed two hits and a walk in each of the first two innings, including two doubles and a triple, to plate three early runs, but it could have been worse. Sheehan struck out Hicks to strand runners on second and third in the first inning, then left a runner on third in the second, thanks in part to a tremendous grab by Max Muncy, reaching over the dugout railing to secure a foul popup.
Sheehan settled down and threw strikes after that, retiring 11 of his final 12 batters faced. The only blemish was Adley Rutschman taking him deep over the high wall in right field in the fifth inning.
Both strikeouts for Sheehan on Monday were finished off by his changeup. He threw 59 fastballs which induced 27 swings, but only one swing and miss, and finished the night with more walks (three) than strikeouts. Sheehan struck out 41.7 percent of his batters faced this year for Double-A Tulsa, but through five major league starts he has 18 strikeouts in 25⅔ innings and a 17.1-percent strikeout rate, the latter ranked 372nd among the 436 pitchers with at least 20 innings this season.
Sheehan walked off the mound trailing, but was still the pitcher of record when Taylor turned the game around. There’s value in perseverance.
Speaking of turnarounds
Yency Almonte was first out of the Dodgers bullpen on Monday, and allowed a hit to his first batter then fell behind 3-0 to his second. But two pitches later Almonte induced a double play then struck out Ramon Urias on three pitches.
Almonte hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 14, striking out 14 in 10⅔ innings in his last 10 appearances.
Alex Vesia followed with two strikeouts in a perfect seventh inning, pitching on his third day in a row for the second time since getting recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 6. After throwing only four pitches to get three outs Sunday in New York, Vesia was rested well enough, and continued his great run. Since his recall, the left-hander has retired 16 of 17 batters faced, with eight strikeouts in 5⅓ innings.
Both Almonte and Vesia were trusted high-leverage relievers in last year’s bullpen, but both got off to terrible starts this year. If they can remain effective, adding them to the Evan Phillips-Brusdar-Graterol-Caleb Ferguson trio, the Dodgers bullpen looks a lot more formidable than it was in the first half.
Phillips and Graterol were not used Monday after each pitched the last two games in New York, so the ninth inning went to Ryan Brasier, who was released by the Red Sox on May 21 after a 7.29 ERA in Boston.
With the Dodgers, the 35-year-old right-hander has a 1.46 ERA in 12⅓ innings with 11 strikeouts and four walks, and one save. Brasier, who worked around a pitch-timer-violation walk to pitch a scoreless ninth inning, is the seventh Dodgers pitcher to record a save this season. It’s Brasier’s second save of the season, as he also saved a game on April 16 with Boston.
Freeman had three hits, with a third-inning single and seventh-inning double to go with his triple. His 52 extra-base hits lead the National League, one more than teammate Mookie Betts.
Dodgers relief pitchers on this road trip has allowed one unearned run on six hits in 15⅓ innings, with 15 strikeouts.
Home runs: Chris Taylor (12); Adley Rutschman (13)
WP — Emmet Sheehan (3-0): 5 IP, 5 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts
LP — Bryan Baker (3-3): 1 IP, 1 hit, 2 runs, 1 walk
Sv — Ryan Brasier (2): 1 IP, 1 walk
Michael Grove is on the mound for the Dodgers on Tuesday night (4:05 p.m.; SportsNet LA, TBS), while major league WHIP leader Tyler Wells (0.927) starts for Baltimore.