How the Dodgers came back to beat the Pirates in a very strange extra-inning game
Around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts approached pitcher Ross Stripling. The team entered the night carrying an oddly constructed roster, with nine relievers and only four bench players. Be prepared to pinch-run tonight, Roberts told his long reliever turned emergency sprinter.
Sometimes prophets wear caps. The memory caused Roberts to beam later in the night, in the wake of a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh in 10 innings, after Stripling stomped across the plate as the winning run after a walkoff hit by backup catcher Austin Barnes.
“Seven and a half hours ago,” Roberts said. “So he was good and loose.”
The Dodgers (19-14) did not script this night. No one could. Too much went right before so much went wrong before enough went right for the team to escape with their fourth victory in a row. Julio Urias did not allow a hit until the seventh inning. Yasmani Grandal swatted a two-run homer. Roberts wanted to watch Urias chase history while protecting the lead.
Then, in the seventh, the night unraveled. Urias gave up a double. Andrew Toles injured his right knee crashing into a wall trying to catch the ball — an X-ray on his leg came back negative, but Roberts expressed concern about his anterior cruciate ligament, which will be examined in an MRI on Wednesday.
Enrique Hernandez replaced Toles in the field. Sergio Romo replaced Urias on the mound. Hernandez and Romo combined to torpedo Urias’ evening. Romo surrendered a sizzling liner to Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli. As the ball flew into left field, Hernandez took a knee to smother it. The ball bounced past him instead, giving Pittsburgh a run and a runner at second base. Cervelli scored when his teammate Max Moroff hit a flare into center field off Dodgers reliever Luis Avilan.
The bullpen combustion carried into the eighth. Pedro Baez yielded a solo home run to Pittsburgh pinch-hitter John Jaso, which laid the groundwork for the drama of the ninth.
Facing Pirates closer Tony Watson, Corey Seager and Justin Turner supplied hits. Cody Bellinger tied the game by threading a groundball single through the right side of the infield. Bellinger, the rookie cleanup hitter, opened the door for Barnes to take the team home in the 10th.
For the first three hours and 37 minutes of Tuesday’s game, Barnes occupied his dugout. He made his one at-bat, his one minute, count for plenty. When Grandal led off with a single against Pirates reliever Daniel Hudson, Barnes knew he would be hitting soon. Stripling replaced Grandal on the bases. With two outs, Barnes stepped to the plate.
“You have to be ready to hit,” Barnes said. “Right away.”
Barnes did not wait. He pounced on a 96-mph fastball from Pirates reliever Daniel Hudson. As the ball rolled to the wall, Stripling took off. On the television broadcast, announcer Joe Davis encapsulated the 270-foot gallop.
“How fast can Ross Stripling run?” Davis asked. “Fast enough.”
The rallies in the ninth and the 10th reduced the sting from earlier in the evening. The Dodgers looked on the verge of a gut-wrenching loss after the seventh and the eighth. The night had unfolded in idyllic fashion up to that point.
For the first time in his professional career, Urias carried himself into the seventh inning of a start. By keeping the Pirates hitless, Urias placed Roberts into a familiar bind, one he traversed with Rich Hill and Stripling in 2016. Urias started the seventh with 83 pitches on his ledger. Roberts did not want him to throw more than 110, but he did not want to remove Urias, especially with a ballpark promotion on the pitcher’s side.
“I was figuring out, Mexican Heritage Night, pitch count starting to creep up there, and I’ve got to take this young kid out of a no-hitter,” Roberts said. “I think 45,000 fans would have really come down on me.”
Urias had allowed only one run in his first two starts this season. The organization still holds him to a high standard. On Tuesday afternoon, Roberts expressed his concern about Urias’ strikeout-to-walk ratio. Urias had walked eight batters in 10 2/3 innings and struck out only five.
“You look at the ERA — it looks good,” Roberts said. “But I think we all know, and Julio knows, especially, that it needs to be better.”
Roberts credited Urias for a preternatural ability to evade danger. The pitcher makes mistakes, Roberts conceded. But he avoids compounding them.
Urias displayed that quality in the second inning and again in the third. He started the second by issuing a leadoff walk to outfielder Gregory Polanco. Urias responded by retiring the next three batters.
In the third, Urias extended an inning by making a gaffe. He fumbled a grounder tapped back toward the mound by Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison. Urias wriggled free when the next batter, shortstop Jordy Mercer, lined a changeup into Yasiel Puig’s glove in right field.
Behind the plate, Grandal noticed how Urias struggled to control his changeup and his curveball. Only his fastball proved reliable. “He really did a good job of battling,” Grandal said.
Unlike Monday, when the Dodgers pilloried overmatched spot starter Trevor Williams, Pittsburgh countered Urias with a worthy foe. Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova entered the game leading the National League in walks plus hits allowed per inning. He had walked one batter in 42 innings.
Nova preys on overzealous batters. He pumps two-seam sinkers at the knees and lets his fielders clean up the results. The Dodgers chipped away at him in the first few frames. Turner became the second batter to take a walk against Nova in 2017. Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig hit singles in the second.
In the fourth, the Dodgers bruised Nova in unlikely fashion. It started with a walk by Bellinger — meaning the Dodgers doubled Nova’s walk total from his first six starts. With Bellinger at first, Grandal was up.
Grandal supplied 27 home runs in 2016. He tied for the team lead. No catcher in baseball hit more. Yet he entered Tuesday with only three homers and a subpar .382 slugging percentage. Roberts pinpointed a skittish approach as the culprit. Grandal, he explained, was “too aggressive.”
In his first at-bat, Grandal had popped up the first pitch he saw. He was more patient this time. He passed on a pair of fastballs, forcing Nova to challenge him inside the zone. Grandal volleyed the pitch beyond the fence in right-center field.
Urias kept the lead safe until the seventh. His teammates had a chance to pull ahead in the seventh and the eighth. Both times, they stranded runners in scoring position. The ninth was different. And the 10th — somehow, Roberts saw that one coming.
“We didn’t quit,” Roberts said. “It’s a credit to our guys.”
Are you a true-blue fan?
Get our Dodgers Dugout newsletter for insights, news and much more.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.