Marooned inside a cramped office, barred from returning to the dugout, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts fixed his eyes on a television for the final inning of one of the most tumultuous games of the season.
As Kyle Farmer stepped into the batter’s box against Chicago Cubs reliever Justin Wilson, Yasmani Grandal huffed up the steps into the clubhouse. He had just been ejected from the game by umpire Tripp Gibson. Four innings earlier, Gibson had thrown out Roberts and Matt Kemp. Farmer was at the plate only because Kemp’s spot in the batting order had come up.
“If it wasn’t for me getting kicked out,” Kemp said, “Farmer wouldn’t have came up and hit that double. So everything worked out.”
With two outs, two strikes and two men aboard, Farmer roped a double that drove in both runners and erased a one-run deficit as the Dodgers captured a 4-3 victory in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, the lineup could not capitalize on six scoreless innings from Rich Hill in a 2-1 defeat in 10 innings.
On the disabled list since May 19 because of a blister on his left middle finger, Hill returned in fine form. He struck out six batters and gave up only three hits. The bullpen could not replicate its stoutness from earlier in the day. Erik Goeddel gave up his first run as a Dodger on a home run by Kyle Schwarber. In the 10th inning, Brock Stewart — called up to be the 26th player on the roster for the doubleheader — surrendered a leadoff triple to former National League most valuable player Kris Bryant and a walkoff single to Albert Almora.
The offense struggled all day. The Dodgers were four for 29 with runners in scoring position and stranded 24 runners.
The outing from Hill was a reason for optimism. Hill credited pitching coach Rick Honeycutt for suggesting a few mechanical changes while Hill recuperated over the last month. He reduced his earned-run average from 6.02 to 4.99.
“You want to talk about silver linings or whatever, that’s a really good way to look at it,” Hill said. “To take the time and figure out, OK, what is going on here? And clean up some things mechanically and get back to where we were the last three years.”
The matchup served as a rematch of the last two NL Championship Series. The Cubs beat he Dodgers in 2016 and captured their first championship since 1908. The next October, the Dodgers toppled the Cubs only to fall to Houston in the World Series, extending a drought that has dragged on since 1988. The teams could meet again this October, if the Dodgers can leapfrog Arizona in the NL West and the Cubs can do the same to Milwaukee in the NL Central.
The matinee featured an abbreviated outing from Kenta Maeda, a bravura performance by the Dodgers bullpen and an afternoon of angst aimed at Gibson. Maeda gave up three runs as he failed to complete the fourth inning. He operated without fastball command, even within Gibson’s inexact strike zone. The relievers tallied 5 1/3 scoreless innings, capped by Kenley Jansen’s 18th save.
The day started with a jolt. Joc Pederson homered on the second pitch of the game from starter Tyler Chatwood. In Chatwood, the Dodgers faced one of the most imprecise pitchers in baseball. Chatwood entered the game with 58 walks in 63 1/3 innings, a mind-boggling amount for a pitcher still maintaining a 4.12 ERA.
After Pederson’s homer, Chatwood walked Max Muncy and Justin Turner. The Chicago partisans grumbled as Grandal came up. The at-bat would flummox Grandal. Gibson afforded Chatwood two strikes on changeups that appeared outside the zone, and rung up Grandal on one of them. Kemp popped up and Cody Bellinger swung through a 95-mph fastball to leave the runners aboard.
The top of the second inning looked similar: Chatwood issued two walks and escaped unscathed. The Cubs provided a better example of how to perform with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the inning. Maeda gave up two singles before walking Chris Gimenez, who carried a .176 batting average to the plate. With the bases loaded, Maeda hung a slider and Bryant connected for a two-run double into left field.
“He didn’t have command of the fastball, and he didn’t execute his slider,” Roberts said. “There were a lot of backed-up sliders that just wouldn’t finish.”
The virus of wildness spread from Chatwood to Maeda, who walked a career-high five batters. Roberts intervened in the fourth inning after a single by Jason Heyward and a walk by Ben Zobrist. Against Zobrist, Maeda threw a curveball in the dirt, a curveball high, a changeup outside and a 3-and-0 fastball well below the zone. Anthony Rizzo drove in a run with a single against Adam Liberatore.
The irritation with Gibson boiled over in the fifth inning. Gibson called Turner and Kemp out on strikes. While Kemp carped about Gibson’s zone after the third out, Turner and others hollered at the umpire from the bench. Third base coach Chris Woodward tried to divert Kemp from the scene. Gibson turned away from Kemp and ejected him. As Roberts arrived to protest the decision, Gibson ejected him, too.
“He was calling what he was calling,” Kemp said. “Y’all trying to be messy. It is what it is. I got kicked out. I shouldn’t have gotten kicked out in that situation.”
Like Kemp, Roberts opted for a diplomatic tack. He called Gibson “a good umpire.”
“It just seemed to me there were more pitches that went their way than our way,” Roberts said. “That’s just my opinion. … You want to protect the player. I just didn’t agree with some of those calls, and you can’t argue balls and strikes. So [Gibson] did what he was supposed to do.”
The Dodgers snatched a run back in the sixth inning. Chris Taylor cracked a grounder past third baseman Bryant and into the left-field ivy. As Schwarber tried to retrieve it, Taylor raced for a triple. He scored on a bloop double by Yasiel Puig between three defenders in right-center field.
The deficit was a run when the ninth inning began. Brandon Morrow, the former Dodger signed in the offseason to close for Chicago, was unavailable as he nursed a back injury. After a leadoff walk from Austin Barnes and a one-out single by Turner, Farmer pulled a 2-and-2 cutter from Wilson to give his team the lead.