By the time Joe Kelly was pulled from the Dodgers’ 4-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Monday night, the Dodger Stadium crowd was booing him a third time.
All three rounds were hearty. The fans had seen him blow another lead. They had seen enough.
Kelly was signed to a three-year, $25-million contract over the offseason to bolster the Dodgers bullpen after overwhelming the Dodgers in the World Series last October as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
His tenure in Los Angeles is off to a tenuous start.
On Friday, the right-hander squandered two leads in the Dodgers’ 13-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. On Monday, he gave up a 2-0 lead to the Giants (2-3) in 12/3 innings on a home run by Brandon Belt and a two-out, two-run single by Pablo Sandoval.
When he was pulled, the game was tied with two runners on base and two outs. Left-hander Scott Alexander was summoned to replace him to face the left-handed-hitting Brandon Belt. The deadlock was busted when Belt lined a two-run double.
The Dodgers’ offense, meanwhile, was stifled by left-hander Drew Pomeranz until the fifth inning, when Chris Taylor and Alex Verdugo supplied solo home runs.
The homers ballooned the Dodgers’ season total to 16 in five games. It was all the scoring they mustered against Pomeranz and four relievers.
The lack of offense and the bullpen’s implosion spoiled Julio Urias’ first start for the Dodgers (3-2) since May 20, 2017.
After rejoining the Dodgers as a reliever last September and pitching in the postseason, Urias was the Dodgers’ best pitcher in spring training. He completed his exhibition slate last Tuesday with four scoreless innings against the Angels in the third game of the Freeway Series.
He was nearly as good when it counted Monday in his first start for the Dodgers in 681 days.
With his parents, brother, and sister in the crowd after traveling from Mexico on Sunday, the left-hander collected seven strikeouts and allowed three hits.
He hit a batter but didn’t walk one. He induced 14 swing and misses and got called strikes on six of the 14 curveballs he threw. In the third inning, Urias dropped down to three-quarters to strike Gerardo Parra out swinging with a 97-mph fastball. He was at ease. He cruised.
They will stash him in the bullpen once Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill come off the injured list to limit his innings this season in hopes of keeping him fresh and healthy to free him for a playoff run — perhaps as a starter — but after the game Roberts said Urias will make another start before the move is made.
“I felt really comfortable,” Urias said. “I felt good. And my last spring training start gave me a lot of confidence for this start.”
Kelly retired the next three hitters, two on strikeouts, and returned to the mound in the seventh inning. He promptly allowed a single to pinch-hitter Yangervis Solarte. Solarte advanced to third base on consecutive groundouts before Pablo Sandoval, another pinch-hitter, singled to center field to tie the score. Steve Duggar then doubled.
“You see the stuff,” Roberts said. “You see a plus change and the breaking ball. Sharp. If he just keeps running that stuff out there, Joe’s going to be fine."
That ended Kelly’s night and set the stage for Belt’s go-ahead double off Alexander, drawing one last loud chorus of disapproval.
“I played in a place where it’s a lot worse with the boo birds so it’s fine,” Kelly said.
“It’s all part of it. It’s part of being a fan. Obviously, I’m not happy with myself. I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I was a fan, either.”