Kenley Jansen wandered into the press box as the game turned to the eighth inning. Surely, this game finally would be the one in which the Dodgers would not suffer another painful bullpen failure, with their All-Star closer confined to the disabled list.
Jansen said hello, asking if the press box was the ugly section. There were smiles, and laughs, and then he departed.
Within minutes, there were no more smiles, and no more laughs, at least not in the home dugout. The Dodgers were six outs from victory, with a three-run lead. They got one out before the lead was gone.
Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run home run off rookie Caleb Ferguson in the eighth inning, and surely this game would be another one the Dodgers would lose.
Or not: Brian Dozier delivered a sacrifice fly for the winning run with one out in the 12th inning, scoring Yasmani Grandal and lifting the Dodgers to a 4-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The hit ended the Dodgers’ losing streak at five games.
“A big relief, to say the least,” Dozier said. “A huge win. A much-needed win.”
What is the difference between a much-needed win and a must-win?
“Now you’ve got my head spinning,” he said.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Dozier said. “We’ve got a lot of games left. There’s no panic. I know, from the outside looking in, four or five losses in a row and it’s, ‘Gotta win, gotta win.’ But, at the same time, we’re still playing good baseball.
“What I mean by ‘much-needed win’ is from a confidence standpoint, to get the ball rolling. Last time I checked, the majority of winning streaks always come off after a loss, right?”
For the seventh consecutive game, the Dodgers’ bullpen had imploded in the late innings. The roll call: Pedro Baez last Thursday, Zac Rosscup on Friday, J.T. Chargois on Saturday, Dylan Floro on Sunday, Scott Alexander on Monday, Maeda on Tuesday and Ferguson on Wednesday. Ross Stripling, an intended solution, went on the disabled list Wednesday.
But the Dodgers held off the Giants, avoiding the sweep in the process. After Ferguson, three relievers — Erik Goeddel, Alexander and Baez — combined for four and a third innings of one-hit relief.
“If that one gets away from us, it makes for a tough series here, and a long road trip up to play a good Seattle team,” Justin Turner said.
“That was huge for us, to get a little bit of a monkey off our shoulder and get back to playing baseball the way we can.”
The Dodgers scored the winning run three innings after they had gotten the potential winning run into scoring position in the ninth inning. But they had run out of position players by then, so they had to use Kenta Maeda as a pinch-hitter.
Maeda struck out.
Ferguson had faced 93 batters in relief this season. He had given up three earned runs.
The Dodgers entrusted him with a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning. He gave up three earned runs to the first four batters — single, walk, strikeout, and the three-run home run to McCutchen.
Matt Kemp has gone so cold — he entered play Wednesday batting .094 in August — that the Giants walked Manny Machado intentionally to put two men on base for Kemp, the Dodgers’ cleanup batter.
Kemp swung and broke his bat but — could the fates be turning? — managed to flare a single into center field. Dozier charged around third base, propelled himself toward home face first, and extended his left arm to tag the plate.
Could the fates be turning? Not then, because the umpire called Dozier safe but the replay officials called him out, erasing the run.
In the sixth inning, the Dodgers finally scored, on an out. Yasiel Puig doubled to start the inning, and Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson followed with successive fly balls to right field.
Puig took third base on the first one, scored on the second one, and the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead.
In the seventh, they broke out. Two more runs, on a double by Machado and a single by Kemp, and the Dodgers led, 3-0.
For the better part of a week now, anguish about the pitching staff has permeated Dodger talk on the radio, online and in the Starbucks near you.
But the statistics do not lie: The Dodgers’ pitching staff has the best earned-run average of any staff in the National League.
The late innings have been a disaster, with Jansen on the disabled list. No lie there.
But the starters have been terrific, with a 3.24 ERA. The only major league team whose starters have a better ERA: the Houston Astros, the team that sent three-fifths of its rotation — Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton — to the All-Star Game.
In his first appearance since injuring his groin on May 2, Ryu set down the Giants, efficiently and relentlessly.
The first batter grounded out, The second tucked a bloop double inside the foul line. Ryu retired the next 12 batters.
Then, with one out in the fifth inning, the Giants got consecutive singles. Ryu coolly struck out the next two batters, Alen Hansen and Derek Holland.
Ryu worked six innings in all. He gave up no runs and no walks, and he struck out six.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin