A clash in baseball strategy took place at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.
On one side, the Tampa Bay Rays, a club always on the cutting edge in an attempt to compensate for its weak revenue steam, had Hunter Wood start the game as an opener scheduled for two innings. On the other side, the Dodgers, one of baseball’s big-money behemoths, started Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who takes immense pride in pitching deep into games.
The Dodgers and Kershaw prevailed in a 7-3 win, but not before a crucial member of the bullpen exited with a scary injury.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts replaced Kershaw with right-hander Pedro Baez with one out in the seventh inning to face Willy Adames with two runners on base. Two pitches into his outing, Adames cracked a 103-mph line drive that ricocheted off Baez’s right knee.
Baez dropped to the ground in pain. He tried walking it off but couldn’t. Dodgers trainer Andrew Hauser tended to him as he lay on the field turf. Baez walked off with help and not much weight on his right leg believing he had fractured a bone. But he and the Dodgers (32-17) dodged disaster. X-rays on the knee were negative, and Baez, walking with a limp after the game, said the knee felt significantly better. A stint on the injured list, however, is within the realm of possibility.
“He’ll be down [Wednesday], and we have a lot of guys that are fresh and then you got the off day coming,” Roberts said. “So we’ve got a couple of days to assess where Petey’s at.”
Pitching at Tropicana Field for the first time in his career, Kershaw (4-0) was charged with two runs on six hits across 6⅓ innings. He recorded eight strikeouts and one walk and threw 97 pitches. The Dodgers improved to 7-0 in Kershaw’s seven starts this season.
Wood, meanwhile, was pulled after throwing 34 pitches in two innings. The right-hander allowed an unearned run on two hits and a walk. The Dodgers, who countered the Rays’ strategy by batting Matt Beaty leadoff as the designated hitter for his second career start, scored their second run in the third inning against left-hander Jalen Beeks on a sacrifice fly by Justin Turner. Austin Barnes’ RBI single in the fourth made it 4-0. Three innings later, the Dodgers, who put 17 runners on base, tacked on three runs with three straight two-out singles.
The insurance runs proved pivotal. The Rays (27-18) finally threatened against Kershaw in the seventh inning. Daniel Robertson singled. Guillermo Heredia doubled. They were the first Rays to reach scoring position and were the final two Kershaw faced.
“I think other than that last inning, I thought everything went pretty well,” Kershaw said. “Not a whole lot of hard contact.”
The Rays scored on Adames’ comebacker to Baez. They added two more off left-hander Scott Alexander before Dylan Floro entered the game and escaped the trouble.
Dodgers add to front office
The Dodgers hired former Rays, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey as a special assistant for player development. Hickey, who was at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, spent 11 seasons as Tampa Bay’s pitching coach, working under current Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman for the first seven years. He also coached Brandon Gomes — a former Rays pitcher and current Dodgers assistant general manager — for five seasons. The 57-year-old Hickey spent last season with the Cubs before resigning in November, citing personal reasons.