Kenley Jansen hobbled across the clubhouse Tuesday night, his gray baseball pants rolled up to reveal his red right ankle, the one that absorbed a 98-mph grounder in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 9-8 walk-off loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, and plopped into the chair in front of his locker to express his regret.
“I’m not an excuses guy, but I shouldn’t have kept pitching,” Jansen said. “That’s the one thing I learned. I should’ve come out of the game.”
The lament came far too late, several minutes after Bryce Harper, the fourth hitter after Adam Haseley’s groundball struck Jansen, delivered a line drive that bounced off center fielder A.J. Pollock and to the wall for a game-winning two-run double to erase the Dodgers’ meticulous five-run comeback.
Haseley began the inning with the hard-hit grounder, which ricocheted off Jansen to David Freese at first base. Jansen shook off an inquiry from the dugout, insisting he was fine. For a moment, it was coming up all Dodgers. Jansen wouldn’t record another out.
Andrew Knapp followed with a pinch-hit double and Cesar Hernandez singled before Scott Kingery lifted a fly ball to shallow center field. Pollock, sprinting in, called off second baseman Max Muncy but couldn’t reach the ball before it bounced. Knapp scored, slicing the Dodgers lead to one run and forcing Jansen to display a limp as he backed up the catcher at home. The hindrance was significant enough to coax manager Dave Roberts and a trainer from the dugout to inquire about Jansen’s condition.
“He’s in the game and felt that he could continue to go,” Roberts said. “So once he gives us that assurance that he can’t hurt himself more and feels like he can make pitches, then we wanted to keep him going.”
Harper hit Jansen’s next pitch, a 93-mph cutter, to right-center field. Pollock got in front of the ball in time but was unsure how to proceed.
“I was in-between. Do I make a play on it? Do I lay up?” Pollock said. “I just got caught in-between there and the ball scooted off.”
Just before the ninth inning was about to begin, rain fell on Citizens Bank Park. After a 22-minute delay, Muncy faced closer Hector Neris with the Dodgers trailing 6-5.
Muncy worked a six-pitch walk. Pollock followed with a broken-bat flare to left field for a single. Two pitches later, Matt Beaty hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run to to put the Dodgers ahead 8-6.
It would’ve been a fitting end to a game in which home runs were the only means of production until the conclusion. The clubs combined for eight. The first six hits by position players were home runs — pitcher Vince Velasquez had a single in the Phillies’ five-run second inning for their only hit that didn’t land beyond the fence. The Dodgers mustered two hits, both singles, that stayed in the park.
The Dodgers’ five home runs had erased Walker Buehler’s early troubles. For four innings, the right-hander performed like the pitcher from the previous six weeks, the overwhelming ace-level performer who propelled himself to his first All-Star Game after a slow start. But those four innings came after the first two innings and he gave up three home runs before he could secure six outs.
Kingery supplied the first home run, in the first inning. Brad Miller hit an 0-and-2 curveball for a two-run shot in the second inning. Harper rounded out the trio with a 458-foot blast just left of center field for a three-run home run later in the inning.
Buehler, making his first start since July 3, had never given up three home runs in a game in the majors. He settled in and held the Phillies scoreless over his final four innings. He struck out seven, walked three and threw 101 pitches before leaving.
The Dodgers’ response to Philadelphia’s early home run barrage was a larger home run barrage.
Muncy deposited a ball on the second deck in the second inning for his 25th home run. In the fifth inning, Cody Bellinger hit a rocket just over the wall in right field for his league-leading 34th home run. Two batters later, Pollock slugged a solo home run, giving him a home run in three straight games for the first time in his career. Joc Pederson continued the surge with a leadoff blast in the fifth inning to trim the Dodgers’ deficit to one run.
It remained one until Beaty’s hack gave the Dodgers their first lead. Three pitches later, Neris threw a 2-0 fastball that hit Freese in the upper back and prompted the reliever’s ejection. Manager Gabe Kapler was also tossed. The Phillies were flustered. A night after dispensing a 14-run rout of them, the Dodgers were poised to win another game another way.
But Jansen could not shut the door. Later, he said Haseley’s grounder had numbed his ankle instantly. His velocity did not dip — it actually rose from 89 mph to 93 over the outing — but he said he couldn’t push off the mound. He stayed in the game anyway.
“I’m not a quitter, man,” Jansen said. “Even if it hurts, I’m still going to go out there and compete. But I should be a little more smart out there myself and be honest with myself and come out of the game. So, I just put the blame on myself.”