The oddity of Tuesday’s 16-inning Dodgers loss bled into the series finale, even for two rookies who didn’t appear in the marathon. Walker Buehler watched the first 11 innings from his hotel room before nodding off in preparation for a start the next day. Caleb Ferguson fidgeted in the bullpen, begging the coaching staff for a chance to pitch, watching in vain as utility player Enrique Hernandez served up a game-ending home run.
“You feel like you let the team down a little bit,” Ferguson said. “Because your job is to pitch, and I didn’t last night.”
On Wednesday, both Buehler and Ferguson took the mound. Buehler sputtered in the fifth inning of a 7-3 defeat to the Phillies. He was charged with five runs in 4 2/3 innings. Ferguson handled two innings, given the baseball after throwing 50 pitches on Sunday. His performance, at the very least, protected the rest of the bullpen heading into a four-game series with Atlanta.
The Dodgers (56-46) departed for Atlanta having lost a series after winning three in a row. One of the losses sprang from the symbolic waving of a white flag, using Hernandez rather than Ferguson or a starting pitcher on Tuesday. A day later, the Phillies simply stomped their guests, who were mostly quiet, save for a sixth-inning home run by Max Muncy.
“They beat us,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We got beat this series.”
Buehler (4-3, 3.92 earned-run average) took the baseball in a game for the first time since July 13. After a riveting start to his season, with a 2.20 earned-run average in seven starts, his production has stagnated. The decline began when Buehler took a line drive off his ribs on May 21. A microfracture was not discovered until three weeks later.
The Dodgers placed Buehler on the disabled list. After a few weeks off, they flew him from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City and back in a 48-hour window before using him as a reliever on June 28. Buehler went back on the disabled list, threw five innings on the weekend before the All-Star break and then idled for nearly two weeks.
“I wouldn’t have scripted it that way, if I was making my big, master plan,” Buehler said. “But I’m not the first guy to go through it. And I won’t be the last. You make do. The bottom line is I’ve got to pitch better when I’m here.”
The Dodgers recalled Buehler hoping he could keep the bullpen rested on Wednesday. The players straggled back to Citizens Bank Park with only a brief nap in between games. The contest on Tuesday dragged into Wednesday morning, lasting 5 hours and 55 minutes. It was torture, and it was exhausting.
On the morning after, the Dodgers staff attempted to manufacture energy. Bench coach Bob Geren spotted backup catcher Austin Barnes, nicknamed “Sam,” eating breakfast, and hollered across the clubhouse.
“Sammy!” Geren shouted. “Bring it today.”
“Blessed morning, blessed morning,” Barnes replied in between bites.
“Champions bounce back when they get knocked down,” Geren said.
The second bus from the team hotel, which contained most members of the roster, emptied into the clubhouse at 10:21 a.m. The game began 2 hours and 16 minutes later, merely 11 hours and 23 minutes after Hernandez threw the previous game’s final pitch.
The sleepiness extended to the home clubhouse, too. The Dodgers manufactured a first-inning run off Philadelphia starter Jake Arrieta when Joc Pederson singled, advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Andrew Knapp and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Roberts hoped Buehler could last deep into the game to take pressure off the bullpen. The bottom of the first was not encouraging. Buehler required 13 pitches to strike out Knapp. He surrendered a solo home run to Phillies outfielder Rhys Hoskins. The inning lasted 32 pitches.
Buehler found a groove after that. Through four innings, his pitch count was 66. After Hoskins went deep, Buehler retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. A string of 11 consecutive outs ended when Philadelphia rookie Scott Kingery came up.
Kingery had hit only four home runs all season. He entered the game slugging .329. He was still ready for a slider from Buehler which swept over the plate. Kingery lofted the pitch into right field, where it barely scraped over the wall, reeled in by a fan. The umpires reviewed the play but the home run stood.
“That’s a good job of hitting,” Buehler said. “That pitch, I was OK. I didn’t think I made a mistake.”
The gates burst open soon after. Buehler gave up a single to second baseman Jesmuel Valentin and an RBI double to Knapp. After Hoskins was intentionally walked, Scott Alexander arrived to face outfielder Odubel Herrera. Alexander was pitching for the third day in a row. He walked Herrera and gave up a bases-clearing triple to first baseman Carlos Santana on an inside sinker.
The rally gave the Phillies a five-run lead. Before the game, Roberts indicated he had only hoped to use Ferguson for one inning. Ferguson turned 22 this month. He has the potential to crack the team’s rotation in the future. The organization does not intend to wreck his left arm. But as Wednesday’s game unfolded, Roberts allowed Ferguson to take the mound for both the sixth and seventh innings.
The homer by Muncy tightened the score. But it could not make up the entirety of the difference. For the second game in a row, the Dodgers could not solve Philadelphia’s bullpen. At least this loss took only nine innings.
“I don’t think that we laid down,” Roberts said. “They made pitches when they needed to. They got the big hits when they needed to. That’s the difference in this series.”
2:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional details and comments from Enrique Hernandez, Walker Buehler and Dave Roberts.
This article was originally published at 12:40 p.m.