Dodgers capitalize on Phillies closer’s control issues to win in ninth
Manny Machado did not ask for a red carpet when he joined the Dodgers over the weekend. As he prepared for his first game at third base with his new team, Kenley Jansen offered a suitable alternative. While Machado fielded grounders Monday afternoon, Jansen snatched one of the Citizens Bank Park’s groundskeeping tools and raked the infield around third for Machado.
Machado laughed and saluted Jansen for the treatment. A few hours later, in the Dodgers’ 7-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Machado offered a reminder of the value of his bat and his legs, raking a seventh-inning triple and scoring on a sacrifice fly to tie the score. The Dodgers pulled ahead with a two-run rally in the ninth against closer Seranthony Dominguez (1-3) to capture a seesaw contest that could serve as a postseason preview.
“It’s a great group of guys, and the staff, everybody,” Machado said. “I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
The Dodgers practiced patience to topple Dominguez. Recalled from the minors earlier in the day, Alex Verdugo took a leadoff walk and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Dominguez walked three batters before Matt Kemp hit a run-scoring single against reliever Luis Garcia. The extra run mattered: Jansen served up a home run on his first pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning to third baseman Maikel Franco. It was Franco’s second home run of the game and added to Jansen’s stress en route to his 29th save.
The game had already see-sawed before the late innings. The Dodgers (56-44) blitzed starter Zach Eflin with three solo home runs and ran him from the game in the third inning. A three-run lead disappeared when Ross Stripling combusted in the fifth inning. After a score-tying, three-run home run by Rhys Hoskins, manager Dave Roberts stuck with Stripling one batter too long. Odubel Herrera followed Hoskins with a home run that put Philadelphia ahead. It took Machado in the seventh inning and Dominguez’s arson in the ninth for the Dodgers to take their third victory in four games since the All-Star break.
The early portion of the day focused on 39-year-old veteran Chase Utley. This month he had announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season, in part so he could say goodbye to the city where he played for 13 seasons. He transitioned to Los Angeles after the Dodgers acquired him in 2015, but the affection for Utley in this city runs deep.
While the Dodgers took batting practice, Utley accepted the adulation. Fans in the crowd held signs that said things like “My Parents Named Me Chase After #26.” A local radio station commissioned an oversized thank-you card; Utley grimaced in the form of a smile during a photograph with the card. Utley took a curtain call before the game began, when the crowd gave him a standing ovation during introductions.
This was not Utley’s first time back in Philadelphia. Yet, unlike when he visited in 2016 and 2017, the Phillies offered their fans more than a chance to gaze upon a familiar player in a rival’s uniform. Philadelphia began the game in first place, a game ahead of their fellow upstarts in Atlanta in the National League East, with former Dodgers farm director Gabe Kapler in the manager’s chair and a talented young pitching staff leading the way.
Eflin, a 24-year-old right-hander, was part of that cohort. He ended up in Philadelphia in the interwoven trades that brought Yasmani Grandal and Jimmy Rollins, among others, to the Dodgers before the 2015 season. Eflin carried a 3.12 earned-run average to the mound. The Dodgers set about sullying that number.
Max Muncy and Grandal hit home runs in consecutive at-bats in the first inning. Another home run preceded Utley’s arrival to the plate in the second inning when Chris Taylor led off with a drive. The discontent among the fans morphed into adoration when Utley walked toward the batter’s box.
The public-address system blared Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” Utley’s longtime walk-up music. On cue, the crowd rose to its feet. The ovation lasted 52 seconds. Utley doffed his cap and revealed his graying mane. Then he lifted a flyball to the warning track in center field. The crowd groaned when it fell for an out, then jumped up for another standing ovation.
The Phillies matched Taylor’s home run in the bottom of the second inning when Franco took Stripling deep. The Dodgers added a fourth home run in the fourth inning. Joc Pederson smoked a 96-mph fastball from Yacksel Rios. The ball was clocked at 112.7 mph as it crashed into the right-field seats.
“We really had some good at-bats tonight, and got the win,” Kemp said.
With Stripling on the mound, the three-run advantage looked safe. Stripling had not given up more than four runs in any of his 14 starts. Yet, the Phillies stressed him throughout the early going. He stood at 73 pitches after four innings and looked unlikely to reach the sixth inning. He couldn’t even complete the fifth.
“Just the crispness hasn’t quite been there,” Roberts said.
The rally started at the bottom of the lineup. Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies’ catcher and No. 8 hitter, smacked a single. A double by Jesmuel Valentin, a former Dodgers farmhand, added to Stripling’s burden. Stripling struck out leadoff man Carlos Santana to set the stage for Hoskins.
With the count at 2 and 2, Stripling tried to bury a curveball. The pitch hovered for too long. Hoskins maintained his balance and destroyed it.
Warming in the bullpen was left-hander Zac Rosscup. Herrera bats from the left side but has been more productive against left-handed pitchers in 2018. Roberts trusted his All-Star. Stripling elevated a 91-mph fastball. Herrera swatted it into the Phillies bullpen to give his club the lead.
“I was a pitch away from coming out, with a good chance to get a win, a 4-1 game,” Stripling said. “And to leave with a 5-4 deficit, that’s frustrating.”
Machado evened the score in the seventh. He cracked a one-out triple against former Baltimore teammate Tommy Hunter. Ninety feet away from the plate, he sprinted home on a shallow flyout by Muncy. Machado beat the throw from Herrera by inches.
“Just trying to be aggressive always,” Machado said. “Trying to score that run, you’ve got a 50-50 chance of being safe or out. Just taking that gamble.”
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