Dodgers’ offense and bullpen comes through to beat Padres and snap losing streak
The Dodgers technically played their 19th game of the 2020 season Wednesday. But the stakes were higher than that number suggests. Each game weighs more in this 60-game race to the postseason. And the Dodgers, looking to avoid a third consecutive loss to a budding contender, operated with an urgency not seen in 19th games of the past.
Recently stung by their reliance on the home run, the Dodgers dug into the archives to generate offense and aggressively deployed their bullpen before putting the game away with a four-run eighth inning to beat the San Diego Padres 6-0 at Dodger Stadium.
Tony Gonsolin, recalled to start Wednesday, was cruising through four innings when he encountered trouble in the fifth. Pitching coach Mark Prior emerged from a mound visit with a runner on first base, two outs, and Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres’ best hitter, on deck. Gonsolin then gave up a single to Jurickson Profar to put runners on first and second. His night ended there, after 82 pitches and a career-high eight strikeouts in 42/3 innings.
Sensing the situation’s importance, Dodgers manger Roberts gave the ball to Blake Treinen, perhaps the Dodgers’ best bullpen arm, to escape the jam. Treinen struck out Tatis. In the end, five Dodgers relievers held the Padres scoreless over the final 41/3 innings.
“That could’ve been the game,” Roberts said. “And so, I just felt that to have Treinen ready for that spot, it could have been the difference.”
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly’s suspension for throwing behind Alex Bregman’s head was reduced from eight to five games by MLB on Wednesday.
AJ Pollock drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning before Chris Taylor dropped a bunt on his own for a single. Edwin Ríos then hammered a line drive off Padres starter Zach Davies’ glove for an RBI single. Austin Barnes, on orders from Roberts, executed a safety squeeze to score Taylor from third base and give the Dodgers (12-7) a two-run cushion after scoring three runs in their previous two games.
“Sometimes when things aren’t clicking, you gotta do some different things and manufacture runs yourself,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said.
Before the game, Roberts was unusually terse and defensive in his daily videoconference call with reporters.
Roberts was first asked if he had ever seen a group of prominent hitters simultaneously endure slumps together before. Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson all entered Wednesday with batting averages under .200.
“It happens every year that a group of guys aren’t swinging the bat well,” Roberts said. “We have this conversation every year. Every manager does. So, I think the guys are handling it well.”
Roberts was then asked about the decision to recall and start Gonsolin before a question was posed about whether Clayton Kershaw was fine with getting pushed back a day. Kershaw was originally scheduled to start Thursday and was moved to Friday. The manager scoffed before saying Kershaw approved.
“I mean, yeah,” Roberts said. “Yeah.”
Next, Roberts was asked for his thoughts on Major League Baseball contemplating creating a bubble for the postseason. The Dodgers are projected to reach the playoffs – expanded to 16 teams this season — and Dodger Stadium could be one of the stadiums used if the bubble concept is executed in Southern California.
“We’ll do whatever Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association come to an agreement about,” he said.
A reporter then joked that Roberts seemed “a little salty.”
“I like good questions,” Roberts responded.
The reporter said he’d try to come up with one.
Mookie Betts won an MVP Award as the Red Sox’s everyday leadoff hitter. Yet, the Dodgers have him batting second even as his teammates struggle at the plate.
“That’d be great,” Roberts replied before addressing another question about the Dodgers offense.
Despite the hitting slump, Roberts insisted he believes his offense remains the deep, potent machine projected before the season started.
Bellinger started Wednesday 0 for 3, grounding into his third double play in two nights in his first at-bat, to drop his batting average to .160. But he ended his night with an RBI ground-rule double in the eighth inning before Turner clubbed a three-run home run to give the Dodgers breathing room.
The Padres loaded the bases in the ninth inning with no outs against Scott Alexander, but Kenley Jansen retired the next three batters to preserve the shutout and the Dodgers’ 12th win in 19 high-stakes games.
Three observations from Wednesday:
1. Joe Kelly’s eight-game suspension for throwing at two Houston Astros batters July 28 was reduced to five games after his appeal. The MLBPA said the sentence, equivalent to 14 games in a 162-game season, was still “unfair.”
2. Corey Seager (back) missed his fourth straight game but was a “full participant” in pregame activities. The shortstop took batting practice on the field for the first time since sustaining his injury Friday.
3. Will Smith left Wednesday’s game in the fifth inning with a sore neck. Roberts said Smith has been dealing with the issue since he was in a collision at the plate last week in San Diego.
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