Dodgers’ biggest rally of the year falls short in ninth-inning defeat | by Rowan Kavner | May, 2022

(Photo by Katie Chin/Los Angeles Dodgers)

by Rowan Kavner

For the second straight night, the Dodgers rallied against a Pennsylvania club to tie the game late. Neither finished the Dodgers’ way.

On Wednesday, a three-run Edwin Ríos double tied the game in the seventh inning before the Pirates jumped back ahead with late runs against a typically reliable Dodger bullpen. The Dodgers returned home Thursday to storm back from a 7–1 deficit against the Phillies, only to watch their perseverant efforts go unrewarded again.

Their largest comeback of the season wasn’t enough as Philadelphia tacked on two more runs in the ninth inning of a 9–7 Dodger defeat to start the four-game series.

“It’s a pretty terrible feeling,” said reliever Daniel Hudson, who suffered the loss on back-to-back nights. “The boys battled back the last two days, and both times it was me that kind of gave it up afterward. Kind of try to learn from it and put it in the past.”

Behind a historic start for the pitching staff, the Dodgers have rarely needed to overcome any sizable deficits this season. Even after allowing 14 runs the last two days, the Dodgers still boast the best ERA (2.48) and WHIP (1.01) with the lowest opponents’ batting average (.201) in baseball.

The Dodger bullpen entered Thursday as the only group in the National League with a sub-3.00 ERA, which made the last two losses particularly uncharacteristic.

It wasn’t hard contact that was Hudson’s undoing.

After the Dodgers tied the game in the eighth inning, manager Dave Roberts had a decision to make for the ninth. Closer Craig Kimbrel hadn’t pitched in five days, but Roberts liked the matchup for Hudson with the 8 spot coming up for the Phillies.

“By the book, it’s the closer at home in a tie game,” Roberts said. “I just felt that that part of the order, we could get Huddy through there.”

After a groundout to start the inning, Odubel Herrera put down a bunt single. Hudson nearly escaped the inning facing the minimum when a potential double-play grounder came back to him off the bat of Rhys Hoskins, but the ball tipped off his glove. Shortstop Trea Turner’s throw to first base wasn’t in time. Hudson said it stung to “whiff” on the grounder.

The inning avalanched on Hudson, who walked a batter, allowed the go-ahead run on a wild pitch and gave up a second run on a sacrifice fly.

“I was going to have Kimbrel for the heart of the order,” Roberts said. “That was my thought, and obviously it didn’t work out.”

In a stretch of 14 games in 12 days, the Dodgers hope to give their bullpen rest wherever possible. Starter Tyler Anderson knew the Dodgers would need length from him Thursday after Tony Gonsolin went five in Tuesday and Ryan Pepiot followed with three innings Wednesday.

He allowed seven runs on 10 hits, but he ate up six ins before handing the ball to Yency Almonte, who was called up earlier in the day when Pepiot was optioned. Almonte’s Dodger debut went swimmingly. The 6-foot-5-inch reliever fed a steady diet of sinkers and sliders to retire all six batters he faced and strike out the side in the eighth inning.

The Dodgers trailed by four runs at the time, but his work kept the game within reasonable striking distance.

“I told myself, knowing this lineup, that it’s never too far,” Almonte said.

Through five innings, the Dodgers’ only run of the game against Phillies starter Zack Wheeler came on Cody Bellinger’s first home run of the month. Bellinger got around on an elevated 96.3 mph fastball. It was the fastest pitch he has homered on since Game 1 of the 2020 World Series, when he went deep on Tyler Glasnow’s 98.2 mph fastball.

The only other damage against Wheeler came from catcher Will Smith, whose first extra-base hit of the month was a two-run double down the line in the sixth inning that ended Wheeler’s night.

It was Smith, who finished 3-for-4, against providing the spark in the Dodgers’ game-tying eighth inning, knocking in his third run of the game with a line drive to center field. Pinch-hitter Justin Turner came through with a two-run double. Chris Taylor’s RBI single provided the final touches on the Dodgers’ comeback attempt.

“There were a lot of good things — obviously just the character of these guys to fight, scratch and claw,” Roberts said.

But a chance to take their first lead slipped away.

Pinch-hitter Hanser Alberto laid down a safety squeeze with Austin Barnes, the last available player on the Dodger bench, running for Justin Turner at third base. Alberto got the bunt down, but Barnes was tagged out at the plate. Mookie Betts walked to load the bases before a Freddie Freeman pop-out.

The Dodgers would get another bases-loaded rally, starting the ninth inning with a Trea Turner single and walks from Max Muncy and Smith. Flyouts followed from Barnes, Bellinger and Taylor to end the game.

It was just their second loss this season when scoring four or more runs.

“Just couldn’t come up with that big one tonight,” Taylor said.

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