Heading into October, the best Dodgers starting pitcher has only started three of his seven games this season. Ryan Pepiot continued his mound mastery on Tuesday, but the offense didn’t oblige in a 4-1 loss to the Rockies in the first game of a doubleheader at Coors Field in Denver.
Pepiot struck out a career-high nine in his six innings, and didn’t allow a run until his final batter of the game, when Nolan Jones took a full-count pitch out to right field in the seventh inning.
Pepiot induced 19 swinging strikes, tied for the fourth-most by a Dodgers pitcher in a game this season, with 16 of those whiffs coming on the changeup alone.
After missing the first three-plus months on the injured list with a strained intercostal muscle, Pepiot has pitched seven times in the majors. All were bulk outings, but only three of them were starts. But the results are undeniable, a 1.85 ERA in 39 innings, with 35 strikeouts against only four walks.
The Dodgers haven’t revealed much about their postseason rotation plans, other than Bobby Miller and Clayton Kershaw starting the first two games of the NLDS in some order. But Pepiot is pitching better than any of them, and deserves a prominent role in October. Whether that’s an actual start or following an opener, Pepiot has earned the right to pitch important innings when things matter the most.
Pepiot left the game the same as when he entered on Tuesday: with a three-run deficit.
Caleb Ferguson opened for the seventh time this season, and the third time in the Dodgers’ last seven games. He still has yet to have a clean first inning in any of those starts, though before Tuesday had allowed only two runs in six innings despite 11 baserunners.
But on Tuesday, all the chickens came home to roost. Ferguson allowed a walk, single, and double to his first three batters faced. All three scored, the last coming on another single, by Elehuris Montero, that ended Ferguson’s day after two outs.
Ferguson got only one swinging strike in his 18 pitches and didn’t strike out any of his six batters faced, an aberration from an otherwise productive September that saw him allow one run in 8⅓ innings with a 38.7-percent strikeout rate.
The Dodgers had their way with the Rockies this season, winning eight of the nine matchups before Tuesday, averaging 7.22 runs per game. They scored at least five runs in seven of their first nine games against Colorado this season.
But on Tuesday, their only run came on a two-out strikeout passed ball that scored Jason Heyward from second base.
Back on June 29 at Coors Field, the Dodgers tagged Chase Anderson for six runs on six hits in 3⅔ innings. On Tuesday afternoon, they couldn’t even score on him on a hit with a runner in scoring position.
Anderson blanked the Dodgers through five innings despite running into trouble in his final frame. Austin Barnes walked with two outs in the fifth, followed by singles from Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. The latter hit was to left field, where Nolan Jones and his strongest arm in baseball was waiting. Third base coach Dino Ebel held Barnes at third, but Betts kept running to third on the throw to the infield. Instead of a bases-loaded situation, a rundown ended what was the Dodgers’ best threat against Anderson, who picked up his first win in 17 starts this season.
Freeman’s single was the Dodgers’ only hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
The Dodgers made another out between third base and home in the sixth inning, when J.D. Martinez was erased at the plate on a bouncer to third base, running on the contact play with the infield back and runners on second and third with one out.
The lone run was a gift, in the seventh inning. With two outs and runners on first and second base, James Outman struck out, fooled badly by a fastball in the dirt. But the ball got away from Austin Wynns and to the backstop. Heyward kept running when Wynns threw to first base, and scored easily on the play.
Despite all of that, the Dodgers still got the tying run to the plate with a double and hit by pitch in the ninth inning. But Tyler Kinley struck out Max Muncy to end the game.
Tuesday Game 1 particulars
Home run: Nolan Jones (19)
WP — Chase Anderson (1-6): 5 IP, 5 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
LP — Caleb Ferguson (7-4): ⅔ IP, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk
Sv — Tyler Kinley (5): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout
The split doubleheader concludes this evening (5:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), with Bobby Miller on the mound for the Dodgers. Right-hander Ryan Feltner starts for the home team. Michael Grove got the final four outs in relief in Game 1, so outside of him and Ferguson the Dodgers will have a nearly fully-stocked bullpen at their disposal in the nightcap.