The tension had evaporated. The clubhouse was full of lightness. This Sunday had turned out about as well as the Dodgers could have possibly hoped.
On this day, the apocalyptic bullpen performance was not delivered in Denver, at the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the major leagues, by the team playing without its All-Star closer. No, the Dodgers and their makeshift relief corps survived.
After the Dodgers won, they could enjoy the bullpen apocalypse from the comfort of the visiting clubhouse, gleefully watching on television as the Arizona Diamondbacks blew their game by coughing up six runs in the ninth inning.
Baseball people overuse the phrase “check all the boxes,” but the Dodgers really did Sunday. Win the game, and win the series, from the first-place Colorado Rockies? Check. Avoid a bullpen meltdown in the absence of Kenley Jansen? Check. Gain a game on the third-place Diamondbacks? Check.
“This was the biggest game of the year so far for us,” the Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez said.
The Dodgers’ 9-6 victory over Colorado moved them within half a game of the Rockies, with 19 games to play. Arizona plays four games in Denver, starting Monday, and Colorado could push the Diamondbacks so far back that the National League West could be decided when the Dodgers and Rockies meet for three games next week at Dodger Stadium.
No one on the Dodgers would say so, of course. There were enough other things to discuss.
Justin Turner homered, had four hits, and reached base in all six plate appearances. He is batting .385 since the All-Star break, with a 1.182 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He would have had a cycle had the official scorer credited Turner for a triple when left fielder Matt Holliday failed to catch his fly ball.
Turner already had reached base twice by the time the Dodgers dismissed Colorado starter Tyler Anderson (6-8) in the third inning.
“When you’re in the other team’s bullpen in the third and fourth inning,” Turner said, “you’re getting their seventh-, eighth-, ninth-best pitchers in the game. That’s what we want to try to do.”
Hernandez homered and tripled, and here is the list of the first four Dodgers with 20 home runs this season: Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal, Cody Bellinger and Hernandez.
The Dodgers had a six-run lead and 12 outs to go. They escaped.
Rich Hill (8-5) gave up four runs in five innings, fairly misleading as far as statistics go. Hill gave up a home run to the first batter in the first inning, Charlie Blackmon. The only other batters to reach base through five innings did so when right fielder Matt Kemp missed a fly ball in the sun and second baseman Brian Dozier made a throwing error.
By the time Hill took the mound for the sixth inning, the Dodgers had an 8-2 lead. Hill had given up two hits and no walks, and had struck out seven batters.
After the Rockies started the sixth inning with consecutive doubles, the Dodgers summoned Pedro Baez. The first batter to face him. Nolan Arenado, hit a home run, and all of a sudden the lead had shrunk to 8-5.
The Dodgers deployed four relievers over the final four innings. The Rockies had at least one man on base in each of those innings, and they twice brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning.
No matter. The Dodgers won, with each of the four relievers getting three outs, and Scott Alexander earning his third save.
“Just glad I didn’t give up tons of runs, I guess,” Alexander said. “Just glad to survive.”
Coors Field can make a pitcher feel that way. The Dodgers survived and advanced. They get Jansen back Monday from his weekend absence. And, on an 85-degree afternoon in Denver, manager Dave Roberts sensed a little October in the air.