With every pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday, what was left of a sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd got riled up a little more.
By the time Cody Bellinger took the fifth and final ball four of the inning, a bases-loaded free pass that brought home the winning run in the Dodgers’ 5-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, all-out pandemonium ensued. Once again, Chavez Ravine wildly celebrated a walk-off win that seemed like it never should have been.
“We put on a clinic there in the ninth inning,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The Dodgers had trailed since the fifth inning, when they failed to execute a potential inning-ending double play that allowed Arizona’s go-ahead run to score. In the eighth, the Dodgers stranded Bellinger at second after a one-out double. In the seventh, they couldn’t capitalize on Chris Taylor’s one-out triple.
But then Diamondbacks closer Greg Holland, who had secured 12 of 14 saves, entered the game in the ninth. The veteran right-hander couldn’t find the strike zone.
After two quick outs, Taylor — who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh after being held out because of sickness, according to Roberts — fell behind 0-and-2. However, down to his last strike, Holland missed with four straight sliders.
Russell Martin also fell behind before working the count full and laying off a slider in the dirt. Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher tried to settle down Holland, but he walked Alex Verdugo in five pitches to load the bases. Once Matt Beaty came to the plate, Holland’s command was gone. He missed with four straight pitches, walking home the tying run.
With the game tied 4-4, the Diamondbacks summoned T.J. McFarland to face Bellinger. But like Holland, McFarland’s command was absent. Bellinger only swung the bat once, fouling off a 1-and-1 sinker. After that, he watched three straight pitches miss the zone and coolly strolled to first, collecting a literal walk-off as “M-V-P!” chants rained down.
“You practice quality at-bats,” Bellinger said. “That’s what I was trying to do. That leads to walks.”
Of all the smiles afterward in the clubhouse, starting pitcher Ross Stripling’s was perhaps the widest. Though the right-hander felt like Tuesday was “probably the best I’ve thrown the ball all year,” he posted only a 4 2/3-inning, four-hit, four-run, seven-strikeout line and left the game on the hook for a tough-luck loss.
His frustration boiled over in the fifth. After inducing the tailor-made double-play ground ball, he began walking off the mound, thinking he had escaped the jam.
Instead, Max Muncy’s throw from second was wide, dragging first baseman Joc Pederson off the bag and sending Stripling into a state of disbelief.
His slumped forward, clutching his knees and dropping his head as Ketel Marte crossed the plate from third.
“Off the bat, I was like, ‘heck yeah, this is a double play,’” Stripling said. “It just didn’t work out.”
However, Stripling’s performance received praise from Roberts, who put the 2018 All-Star back in the rotation last week to fill in for injured Rich Hill.
“He pitched considerably better than the line score,” Roberts said.
“We built him up. I thought his curveball was really good tonight. His fastball had the life.”
Facing the Diamondbacks for the second time in as many starts, Stripling allowed a two-out, RBI double to Eduardo Escobar in the first inning and a two-run home run to Nick Ahmed in the second, dropping the Dodgers into an early three-run deficit.
But then he settled down, using hard-biting breaking balls to strike out a pair of batters in both the third and fourth innings. In fifth, after Enrique Hernandez blasted a two-run home run to left that tied the game, Arizona benefited from a bloop single and soft liner to get runners aboard. Yet, Stripling still almost did enough to get through the frame unscathed.
After his exit, the Dodgers’ bullpen kept it close, receiving a sharp 1 1/3 innings from beleaguer right-hander Joe Kelly as well as scoreless innings from Pedro Baez, Dylan Floro and Yimi Garcia, who was credited with the win.
That was enough to set up the ninth-inning rally. Though the Dodgers mustered only two hits off the Diamondbacks bullpen all night, they were plenty patient in the end, taking pitch after pitch after pitch to earn their fourth straight walk-off win at home. They’re the first team to record four or more consecutive walk-off wins since the 2004 Oakland Athletics, and the first Dodgers team to accomplish the feat.
“It shows me what I’ve already known about our guys,” Roberts said. “We play 27 outs, we play every pitch, both sides of the ball.”