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‘Real baseball’ or not, MLB’s new extra-inning format is working out well for Dodgers

Dodgers' Chris Taylor gets safely back to first during the 10th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks
Dodgers’ Chris Taylor gets safely back to first base as Arizona’s Christian Walker looks for the baseball during the 10th inning Sept. 9 in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw answered the question like he was ordering a coffee, his matter-of-fact tone belying the bluntness of his words.

What did the Dodgers ace think of Major League Baseball’s new extra-inning rules, where teams start each frame with a runner at second base?

“I mean, it’s not real baseball,” Kershaw said with an ironic grin. “It’s fine for this year. I hope we never do it again.”

Real baseball or not, the Dodgers’ have had no problems adjusting to the format, adopted for this pandemic-shortened season. The team improved to 5-1 in extra-inning games with a 6-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, winning beyond regulation for the second straight night to clinch a series win at Chase Field.

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The Dodgers needed only four pitches to take the lead in the top of the 10th as Chris Taylor singled home Corey Seager, who started the extra inning as the designated runner at second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

The Dodgers kept grinding. After Cody Bellinger struck out, Max Muncy drew a full-count walk. Reliever Hector Rondon entered the game and AJ Pollock smashed his first pitch into center for an RBI single and advanced to second on an errant throw.

Even though the Dodgers failed to extend the lead, leaving the bases loaded after Will Smith was intentionally walked, the two runs were enough for Blake Treinen, who filled in as closer on a night off for Kenley Jansen and retired the Diamondbacks in order.

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It was the Dodgers’ third extra-inning win against the Diamondbacks in the last week and helped them maintain a 4½-game lead over the San Diego Padres in the National League West. No team has more extra-inning wins than the Dodgers’ five, or more extra-inning runs than their 14.

“Yeah, maybe,” AJ Pollock said when asked if the Dodgers are built to win extra-inning games. “Whatever inning it is, your first at-bat or your fifth at-bat, I think we’re just treating it all the same. It plays in extra innings, it plays in fresher situations.”

When posed the same question as Kershaw regarding the modified format, which was adopted for only this season in an effort to reduce the length of games, Pollock took a more measured stance.

“I’m OK with it,” he said. “If you’re saying we’re going to do this all the time, I don’t know. There’s upside, there are positives. It’s tough when you play a five-hour game and then maybe it’s a getaway day and you’re getting in at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and you’ve got to keep playing and you’ve got no off day for two weeks. That’s the positive. The negative: It’s different. It doesn’t really feel like anything we’ve ever done.”

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Days before the Houston Astros come to L.A., an artist paints a mural featuring the pouty face Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly used to mock them in July.

Dave Roberts, meanwhile, provided a contrasting view.

Unlike his players, the Dodgers manager has enjoyed the strategic element provided by the “ghost runner” at second. Already this season, he has called for a steal of third and a leadoff sacrifice bunt.

“I didn’t really know how it was going to play out, how it was going to be received,” said Roberts, a proponent of the system entering the season. “But as we’ve had some runs with this, I really like it. It does shorten the game.”

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So much so that, even if some consider it too extreme, Roberts would embrace adopting the rules permanently.

“I don’t like it for the postseason,” he said, “but I do like it in regular-season play.”


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