They were three pitches in a game that featured 313 of them, delivered by one of 16 hurlers who took the mound on one of those drawn-out, expanded-roster-fueled September evenings inDodger Stadium.
But that tiny snippet of the Dodgers’ 7-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays before a crowd of 48,663 Tuesday night, a game in which the Dodgers snapped a 2-2 tie with five seventh-inning runs, could carry much greater weight this October.
Adam Kolarek, the sidearm-throwing left-hander acquired from the Rays for minor league outfielder Niko Hulsizer at the July 31 trade deadline, entered in the seventh inning and struck out left-handed-hitting Kevin Kiermaier on three pitches, all sinking fastballs of 89 to 90 mph.
Kolarek is now 2-0 with an 0.84 ERA in 22 games for the Dodgers, striking out eight and walking two in 102/3 innings and overall limiting left-handed hitters to a .181 average (19 for 105).
A relative unknown six weeks ago, even on a team as anonymous as the Rays, Kolarek is quickly making a name for himself in Los Angeles.
“I didn’t know Adam from Adam before,” manager Dave Roberts said, chuckling at his clever line. “He’s been really good. He throws strikes, keeps the left-handers on the ground, and there’s some punch in there. He’s resilient, and whenever we’ve needed him, he’s answered the bell.”
The Dodgers will haveat least one left-hander who can throw multiple innings out of the bullpen in Julio Urias, two if Caleb Ferguson makes the postseason roster. But Kolarek provides a weapon the Dodgers did not really have last October — a left-handed relief specialist.
“When you’re talking about late in the game, you’ve got a left-handed bat that’s a middle-of-the-order guy, you know you’re going to get the matchup, and one, he has a chance to punch him out,” Roberts said.
“But two, that safety net, there’s a high probability of the ball being on the ground — he can limit slug — so to have a guy who can go in there, throw strikes, get guys out, get some ugly swings, it’s huge.”
So is having a closer as effective as Kenley Jansen was Tuesday night, when the right-hander nailed down the final four outs — two by strikeout — for his 30th save, the sixth consecutive year he’s reached the mark.
The Dodgers had broken a 2-2 tie with a seventh-inning rally sparked by Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks’ error on Max Muncy’s leadoff grounder to first.
Enrique Hernandez doubled to right-center, and Corey Seager, whose two-run, ground-rule double in the fifth gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, hit a two-run double to left-center for a 4-2 lead.
Will Smith walked and Joc Pederson grounded out, but Gavin Lux grounded an RBI single to center to make it 5-2. A.J. Pollock hit an RBI single to left to make it 6-2, and Cody Bellinger roped an RBI double to right to make it 7-2.
The Dodgers would need just about every one of those runs, as the Rays, in a three-way battle with Oakland and Cleveland for the two American League wild-card spots, rallied for three runs off Kenta Maeda in the eighth.
Austin Meadows doubled with one out, Travis d’Arnaud singled to right for a run, and Jesus Aguilar drove a pinch-hit, two-run homer to right to make it 7-5. Roberts summoned Jansen to face Joey Wendle, who reached on Bellinger’s error at first base.
But Jansen struck out Willy Adames to end the inning and retired the side in order in the ninth, his third straight dominant performance after last week’s clean innings in Baltimore and New York.
Roberts altered his original pitching plan Tuesday, moving scheduled starter Ross Stripling to a relief role and using Ferguson as an opener.
“It’s more appreciating the fact that his role in the postseason will be out of the bullpen, so we want to have him take on that role,” Roberts said of Stripling. “I think it’s a safe bet to say Stripling will be on the postseason roster.”
Ferguson did not surrender a hit in 1-2/3 innings, but he did give up a run in the second when Wendle walked with one out, stole second, took third on a balk and scored on Adames’ sacrifice fly to right field.
Stripling started the fourth and threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts despite giving up singles to two of the first three hitters he faced. Pedro Baez gave up a solo homer to Ji-Man Choi that made it 2-2 in the sixth.