Clayton Kershaw solid as Dodgers rally to beat Diamondbacks
It was an ugly half-inning that featured two free passes, a cheap hit and a game-turning defensive gaffe, and the Dodgers didn’t even nail the dismount — the rally ended with a double-play grounder.
But the Dodgers aren’t about to complain, not after Clayton Kershaw gave them a chance to win with a solid six-inning, two-run, two-hit, eight-strikeout effort and the Diamondbacks gifted them their seventh victory in the past eight games.
“Yeah, we had some good fortune,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But that’s baseball sometimes.”
The Dodgers, fresh off the frustration of failing to score after putting runners on first and third with one out in the sixth, trailed 2-1 when Chris Taylor opened the seventh with a walk off reliever Taylor Clarke, and Gavin Lux walked off left-hander Joe Mantiply.
Signed after being released by the Tampa Bay Rays, Yoshi Tsutsugo made his debut in the Dodgers’ 9-1 win over Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
Pinch-hitter Albert Pujols followed with a 185-foot bloop into shallow right field that nicked off the glove of first baseman Pavin Smith, who nearly made a running, over-the-shoulder catch. The hit loaded the bases.
“Albert was trying to call time out on that pitch, and he got jammed,” Roberts said. “First baseman goes back, it would have been a heck of a play, but we caught a break.”
Austin Barnes struck out, and pinch-hitter Will Smith sent a sinking liner toward the right-field line. Arizona’s Josh Rojas got to the ball, but as he positioned himself for a possible catch and throw home, the ball went off his glove for an error that allowed two runs to score for a 3-2 Dodgers lead.
Mookie Betts followed with an RBI ground-rule double to right-center for a 4-2 lead. Max Muncy was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but reliever Stefan Crichton got Justin Turner to bounce into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
“Will had a really good at-bat and lined the ball, and Rojas just dropped it,” Roberts aid. “You don’t see that too often. It allowed us to tack on an extra run.”
Joe Kelly retired the side in order in the seventh to preserve the one-run deficit. Left-hander Victor Gonzalez threw a scoreless eighth, and Kenley Jansen struck out two of three in the ninth, both with 96-mph sinking fastballs, for his ninth save.
It was the 321st save of Jansen’s career. Only Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera (with the New York Yankees) and Trevor Hoffman (with the San Diego Padres) had more with one team.
“It’s crazy — those are two of the best who ever did it, and to see your name underneath them is pretty special,” Jansen said. “Growing up in Curacao, I never thought I’d be in the big leagues, and here I am, living the dream. I’m gonna continue living it and not take any day for granted.”
Jansen, the 33-year-old right-hander, is 0-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 17 games this season, allowing three earned runs and five hits in 18 2/3 innings, striking out 21 and walking 15.
He’s added a two-seam sinking fastball that averaged 95.4 mph Wednesday night to go with his cut-fastball, the trademark pitch that is moving more like it did in 2017, when Jansen dominated to the tune of a 1.32 ERA and 41 saves.
“Kenley looks great right now,” Kershaw said. “I’m happy for him, happy for our team. That’s big. It’s feeling pretty automatic when he gets the ball right now, so that’s a great feeling.”
The Dodgers caught a huge break in the top of the fifth after Nick Ahmed doubled off the center-field wall and took third on Stephen Vogt’s grounder to second.
Albert Pujols is an established baseball great, but if he was willing to be a bench player for the Angels, why is he now playing for the Dodgers?
Arizona pitcher Matt Peacock dropped a safety squeeze toward the mound. Kershaw fielded the ball, looked the runner back and fired low and past Muncy at first, Ahmed trotting home for an apparent 3-1 lead.
But home plate umpire Will Little ruled Peacock out on runner’s interference — replays showed Peacock was inside the line — and sent Ahmed back to third. After Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo was ejected for arguing the call, Kershaw struck out Pavin Smith to end the inning.
“I was just trying to make the throw and wasn’t paying much attention to the runner, but I didn’t feel like I made that bad of a throw,” Kershaw said. “As soon as it went past ‘Munc,’ he was signaling that, ‘Hey, he was in the way.’ So Munc knew right away. I haven’t seen the replay, but everybody said it was pretty obvious, so big play, and thankfully it was the right call.”
Kershaw, who lowered his ERA to 3.18, did not give up a hit until the fourth, when he walked Rojas with one out and Eduardo Escobar lined a two-run homer to center, his team-leading 10th of the season, for a 2-0 Diamondbacks lead.
The Dodgers sliced that lead in half in the bottom of the fourth when Muncy roped a one-out, 109-mph double into the right-field corner — the first hit Peacock gave up — and scored when Yoshi Tsutsugo stroked a full-count, 94-mph fastball through the vacated shortstop hole for an RBI single.
Roberts started Tsutsugo, acquired from Tampa Bay for a player to be named or cash on Saturday, in the cleanup spot. because the team felt the left-handed hitter’s “swing and approach sort of matches up with Peacock,” Roberts said. That scouting report proved correct when
Tsutsugo sent a 110.4-mph screamer into left for his first hit as a Dodger, but Tsutsugo’s swing didn’t match up as well with the hard-throwing Clarke in the sixth.
Luke Raley opened the inning with a pinch-hit single to right and took third on Muncy’s one-out single to right. Clarke replaced Peacock and got Turner to swing at a first-pitch, 88-mph slider off the plate and pop to shallow left, Raley holding. Tsutsugo grounded out to second on a 97-mph fastball to end the inning.
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