The exit velocity on the groundball was clocked at 72 mph, the speed of a modest curveball, the sort of roller destined for an infielder’s glove.
Yasmani Grandal chugged toward first base after the ball left his bat. Already in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night, the Dodgers had benefited from a dropped pop-up and a bobbled comebacker. Now they watched as Grandal’s grounder slipped past the leather of Phillies shortstop Scott Kingery and into the outfield as the decisive RBI single in a 5-4 victory.
Down four runs after two innings, the Dodgers (25-28) completed a comeback with a three-run blitz in the eighth inning to capture the opening game of a four-game series. Yasiel Puig scored two runs. Matt Kemp catalyzed the offense with a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth. The bullpen strung together five scoreless innings and the Dodgers won for the ninth time in 11 games.
“This was a good team win,” Kemp said. “We capitalized on some mistakes.”
The game, a few players remarked, felt like a snapshot from 2017. This season has featured few such moments. But this one came close.
The Dodgers won on a night when their starting pitcher left the game before the opposing pitcher gave up a hit. Manager Dave Roberts described the eighth inning as “funky,” with Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez flubbing one ball and pitcher Adam Morgan fumbling another. Brock Stewart insisted that the Dodgers had “magic” on their side.
The magic removed stress from Stewart’s shoulders. He stumbled through the first two innings and gave up four runs. Three came on a home run by Hernandez. Stewart exited after four innings with Phillies starter Vince Velasquez cruising.
Stewart was making his second start of the season. The Dodgers may not require him to remain in the rotation for much longer. Clayton Kershaw is expected to come off the disabled list Thursday to make his first start since May 1. Kershaw has been sidelined because of biceps tendinitis.
“Had some things go against me in the first inning,” Stewart said. “Those walks aren’t me. A little rough, from the get-go.”
Stewart managed to escape the inning without further damage. He was less fortunate in the second. Kingery deposited a leadoff single into left field. Jorge Alfaro followed with another single. Velasquez bunted the runners into scoring position.
The extra 90 feet did not matter. Hernandez pounced on the first pitch from Stewart, who pumped a 90-mph fastball over the heart of the plate. The drive from Hernandez cleared the right-field fence. “I should have placed that one a little better,” Stewart said.
Velasquez went to high school in Pomona. When he started in Dodger Stadium two years ago, the Dodgers tagged him for nine runs.
He had far less trouble Monday. He dominated with his fastball through a spotless first three innings, striking out four.
In the fifth, Cody Bellinger became the second Dodger to reach base against Velasquez when he took a one-out walk. Velasquez declined to flinch. He buzzed a 95-mph fastball past Chris Taylor for his sixth strikeout. When Chase Utley flied out to center field, Velasquez was through five innings. His pitch count sat at 81.
“He has good stuff,” Puig said. “But you keep going and keep going, that’s the approach.”
From there, the Dodgers staged an offensive and chased Velasquez. Joc Pederson stung a 95-mph fastball down the left-field line for an RBI double. Justin Turner stroked an RBI single through the left side of the infield.
The Dodgers bullpen had held the line after Stewart’s early trouble, which presented an opportunity for the offense. Puig started the eighth with a single against reliever Luis Garcia. Off the bench came Kemp. He laced an RBI double into the left-center gap to bring home Puig and cut Philadelphia’s lead to 4-3. “He’s been that guy for us, driving in big runs,” Roberts said.
Into the game arrived Morgan. The defense behind him promptly fell apart. Enrique Hernandez lifted a pop-up high above the infield. Cesar Hernandez lost the ball in the lights and let it fall. The next batter, Max Muncy, tapped a grounder back to the mound. Morgan bobbled it and Kemp scored from third on the 60-foot RBI single.
Two batters later, Grandal gave the Dodgers their first lead of the game. Kenley Jansen made it stick with his 12th save.
“We had some help,” Roberts said. “But to our guys’ credit, we fought and gave ourselves a chance.”