The text message reached Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Thursday night, soon after word leaked about the team calling up a rookie named Kyle Farmer. When Alex Wood heard the news, he wrote to his manager to extol the virtues of Farmer, his former teammate at the University of Georgia. He raved about Farmer’s presence and his makeup.
“And,” Wood ended the message, “he’s clutch.”
He had to wait three games on the bench, but Farmer needed only one at-bat to live up to Wood’s scouting report. In the 11th inning of a 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, Farmer stepped to the plate with a pair of runners aboard and one out. It was his major league debut. He was the last position player left on the Dodgers bench. He had waited 26 years and five minor league seasons for this night. He did not waste it.
When reliever Albert Suarez fired a 3-2 fastball, Farmer was ready. He stung a double into the right-field corner. Corey Seager scored from second base. Justin Turner chugged home from first. And Farmer raised his arms with glee in the middle of Dodger Stadium, a building shaking with noise, as an avalanche engulfed him.
The first teammate Farmer saw was Wood. His old roommate tackled him near second base. Two dozen Dodgers joined the pile, a euphoric celebration of the team’s eighth victory in a row.
“Oh, gosh,” Farmer said. “It feels awesome. That was a pretty cool moment for me and the team.”
“Surreal,” Farmer called the scene. Wood said he could not recall a cooler moment in his career. Roberts could only shake his head.
“I don’t know what else I can say?” Roberts said. “How else can you describe this ballclub?”
All these Dodgers (74-31) do, it seems, is win.
On Sunday, the offense came back from a one-run deficit in the ninth and another in the 11th. Farmer received a curtain call after a game that lasted just shy of four hours. Earlier in the night, Hyun-Jin Ryu matched Giants ace Madison Bumgarner for seven scoreless innings. Both starters limited their opponents to five hits. Each man struck out seven.
Ryu benefited from stellar defense behind him. The Dodgers tied a franchise record by turning six double plays. Four occurred with Ryu on the mound, including a run-saving throw by Enrique Hernandez in the seventh inning.
Once Ryu and Bumgarner departed, the offenses showed life. Giants third baseman Conor Gillaspie punished reliever Josh Fields with a solo shot in the eighth. The Dodgers evened the score in the ninth. Chase Utley led off with an infield single, then stole second base. He scored on a single by Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers loaded the bases in the ninth but Cody Bellinger popped up to send the game into extras.
As the evening wore on, Hernandez turned to Farmer in the dugout.
“Dude,” Hernandez joked, “this game has Kyle Farmer written all over it. You’re going to win this game.”
“I know,” Farmer told his new teammate.
He had arrived on Friday as a curious addition to the roster. Farmer joined the team as the third catcher. He can also play various spots in the infield, but his presence freed up Roberts to use Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal as pinch-hitters earlier in games.
And Farmer had raked in the minors. He hit his way out of double-A Tulsa with an .879 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He sustained his production with triple-A Oklahoma City, batting .316 with six homers and 13 doubles in 48 games.
“He’s so great in the clubhouse, so well-liked,” Roberts said. “You saw the way the players responded to him.”
An in-game maneuver by Roberts created an opening for Farmer. Roberts doubled-switched first baseman Bellinger out of the game in the 10th. An inning later, after Joe Panik pulled the Giants ahead with an RBI single off reliever Luis Avilan, Bellinger’s spot came up in the batting order.
Seager had doubled off Suarez. The Giants intentionally walked Turner. It was up to Farmer. He did not disappoint.
In the melee afterward, Farmer stood with his jersey unbuttoned, flashing his bare chest and ruddy cheeks to the crowd. His parents had flown from Georgia to see his first weekend in the majors. They laughed about missing their flight home. They couldn’t care less. Farmer gave the ball from his first hit to his father.
As Farmer spoke with reporters, bench coach Bob Geren slipped behind him and placed the night’s lineup in his locker. In a season stocked with indelible memories, Farmer had created one of his own.
“That moment right there,” Roberts said, “Kyle’s going to remember it forever.”