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AJ Pollock’s heroics lift Dodgers in epic 16-inning, nearly six-hour win over Padres

AJ Pollock runs the bases.
The Dodgers’ AJ Pollock trots around the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the 16th inning against the San Diego Padres.
(Associated Press)

The game that wouldn’t end, the kind Major League Baseball tried to make obsolete, finally ceased at 12:59 a.m. Thursday, five hours and 49 minutes after the first pitch was thrown at Petco Park.

It ended in a 5-3 win for the Dodgers over the San Diego Padres because AJ Pollock crushed a two-run home run in the 16th inning off left-hander Daniel Camarana, the last pitcher the Padres had available.

It ended after an entertaining pitchers’ duel between the starters, a game-tying home run in the eighth inning, a series of baserunning blunders, an intentional balk, a go-ahead pinch-hit single in the top of the 15th inning, a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 15th inning that bounced off the top of the wall, 13 combined intentional walks, 19 combined pitchers and 489 pitches.

The Dodgers (80-47) intentionally walked the bases loaded twice and escaped both times. The Padres, left without position players on the bench by the 10th inning, deployed two pitchers that were used as pinch-hitters. The Dodgers used 23 players; the Padres 24.

Shane Greene, the Dodgers’ 10th pitcher, recorded the 48th and final out to ignite an early morning celebration. Pollock was dumped with a liquid in celebration. It was a satisfying result for the team in gray.

Dodgers legend Vin Scully is releasing three NFTs. Two will commemorate moments in Dodgers World Series runs, the third will focus on Scully’s career.

The Dodgers have won three straight extra-inning games after losing 11 of them in a row. They’ve won 15 of 17 overall. They remained 2½ games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants with 35 games remaining. The Padres (68-60) are 15 games behind the Giants in third place, one game behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild card spot.

“I’ve talked about team wins, but I think this certainly epitomizes team win,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

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Last year, to avoid marathon games in a shortened season, MLB implemented a rule to have a runner placed at second base to start each extra inning. After some initial backlash, the change was carried over to 2021.

No game had gone longer than 13 innings since the rule was instituted until Wednesday, when the Dodgers and Padres held an exhibition on how to repeatedly squander opportunities with runners in scoring position.

The teams were the first to go four extra innings without scoring a run since the extra-inning rule was instituted — and ended up going five.

The Padres had a 10-inning stretch without a hit; the Dodgers tallied one hit from the 10th through the 14th innings. Neither club executed a bunt in extra innings. The Dodgers issued a franchise record seven intentional walks, becoming the first team in major league history to win a game with that many.

Each scoreless half inning in extras ended with a pitcher walking off roaring in excited relief and a flabbergasted batter shaking his head.

Controversy surrounding L.A. Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer has put a spotlight on sexism in baseball. Things seem different this time.

“It was pretty frustrating, but no one was more frustrated than the hitters themselves,” Roberts said. “We had pitches that we should’ve handled and we just didn’t execute when we needed to. There’s a cost as far as the arms we had to use tonight and picking up the pieces for tomorrow.”

The offensive ineptitude finally concluded in the 15th inning when Billy McKinney, a spectator for the previous five hours, lined a pinch-hit RBI single to put the Dodgers ahead. Trea Turner followed with another RBI single, seemingly the finishing touch on the first major league game to go beyond the 13th inning since Sept. 27, 2019.

That was erased when Fernando Tatis Jr., hitless with four strikeouts in his first six plate appearances, lifted a fly ball off Corey Knebel that landed inches from a leaping Chris Taylor on top of the wall in right field and over for a game-tying homer. It was Tatis’ NL-leading 35th home run. Fans serenaded him with MVP chants.

The night started with a battle between a former Cy Young Award winner and a Cy Young Award hopeful.

Walker Buehler held the Padres to three hits without an earned run across 6 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked one. It was the 25th time he’s logged at least six innings in 26 starts this season. His earned-run average dropped to 2.02, the lowest mark among qualified major league starters. It was another sterling outing for his Cy Young resume.

But Buehler exited trailing 1-0 because the Padres capitalized on Trea Turner’s throwing error in the second inning and Blake Snell was just as good.

Snell outlasted Buehler, continuing his success against the Dodgers going back to the World Series last October, until he gave up a solo home run to Will Smith in the eighth inning.

He gave up the one run and three hits over a career-high 7 2/3 innings. He compiled 10 strikeouts to zero walks and threw a career-high 122 pitches. He owns a 1.96 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers this season. He has a 4.72 ERA in his 19 other starts.

A frustrated Clayton Kershaw hopes to make his return to the mound soon, but there are several ways he could best help the Dodgers.

Jake Cronenworth scored the Padres’ first run after hitting a groundball to Trea Turner to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Turner, playing second base, charged the ball and made a wild off-balance throw past first baseman Max Muncy.

Cronenworth was awarded second base, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a 69-mph dribbler off Wil Myers’ bat to third baseman Justin Turner.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, made loud contact twice against Snell to no avail.

In the second inning, Corey Seager hit a ball that was on its way over the wall in left field before Myers snagged it with a leap. In the fourth inning, Muncy smashed a 106.7-mph fly ball that traveled 403 feet. Thinking it was a home run on contact, he admired the ball as it flew. But Trent Grisham caught it along the wall in center field for the second out.

Justin Turner followed with a single for the Dodgers’ first hit. Their only other hit off Snell through seven innings was a single by Cody Bellinger in the sixth.

Snell was cruising. Less than a year after he was prematurely pulled from Game 6 of the World Series against the Dodgers with one out in the sixth inning as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, he finished the seventh inning with 106 pitches. His night was seemingly over.

But Padres manager Jayce Tingler sent Snell out for the eighth.

Snell began the inning by striking out Chris Taylor. He then threw his 115th pitch, setting a career high, to Will Smith. The 116th cost him. It was a high fastball out of the zone, but Smith, who devours high fastballs, clubbed it over the wall in left field to tie the score.

Snell then struck out for Bellinger before he was relieved. He walked off to a resounding ovation in recognition of the best start since the Padres acquired him last offseason. It was a distant memory by the time the night finally ended.

Betts returning Thursday

Roberts confirmed Mookie Betts is slated to come off the injured list and be in the lineup for Thursday’s series finale against the Padres. It will be his first action since Aug. 7, four days before he was placed on the injured list with a nagging right hip injury.

Roberts acknowledged that the club will have to manage Betts’ workload carefully. He said he doesn’t envision Betts playing more than three days in a row until the postseason.

Betts took three at-bats Wednesday and six Tuesday in a simulated game setting as part of his tuneup. He tracked balls in right field Wednesday.

When Betts returns, it’ll likely not be in his usual leadoff spot; Trea Turner led off in the one game the two played together before Betts was put on the injured list. Betts batted third that game, going 1 for 4 in a 5-3 win over the Angels on Aug. 7.

González optioned to AAA

In a somewhat surprising move, Dodgers optioned left-hander Victor González to triple-A Oklahoma City to make room on the roster for Joe Kelly on Wednesday.

González emerged as a key member of the Dodgers’ bullpen last season, but he’s struggled for three months.

The 24-year-old left-hander has a 5.12 ERA in 24 appearances since May 27, a stretch that included two two-week stints on the injured list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and right knee inflammation. González’s ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate and walk rate have all regressed from last season.

“Tough decision, obviously, with what Victor means to us,” Roberts said.

Kelly rejoined the roster after missing 15 days because he tested positive for COVID-19.

Jansen reaches 1,000 strikeouts

Kenley Jansen notched his 1,000th career strikeout in his 1-2-3 ninth inning Wednesday, becoming the 12th reliever in major league history to reach the mark. Only two other relievers have ever recorded 1,000 with one team: Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.


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