Evan Phillips blows save as Pirates rally to beat Dodgers

Pittsburgh Pirates' Jared Triolo scores on a double by Josh Palacios as Dodgers catcher Will Smith stands.
Pirates third baseman Jared Triolo, right, scores on a double by Josh Palacios as Dodgers catcher Will Smith stands at the plate during the ninth inning Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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From the moment he completed his 12th save of the season on Monday night, Dodgers closer Evan Phillips started thinking about Tuesday’s game.

The six-year veteran had never pitched three days in a row in his major league career. Monday had been only his ninth time this year pitching on consecutive days.

But after going to bed feeling strong, and waking up Tuesday physically refreshed, the right-hander arrived at the ballpark, went through his pregame work, and informed manager Dave Roberts he “felt great” to pitch, if needed.


“I really felt confident that I could help the team win a ballgame tonight,” Phillips said. “I take a lot of pride in being healthy and being available.”

The only problem: Fatigue finally caught up with Phillips after all, contributing to him giving up three runs and blowing the save in the top of the ninth inning that cost the Dodgers in a 9-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I took it as a little bit of a challenge to be ready to go for a third day in a row,” Phillips said. “So it really stings it didn’t come out on the right side for us.”

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May will undergo right elbow surgery later this month to repair the flexor tendon he injured earlier this season.

July 4, 2023

After entering the game with a team-best 1.85 ERA and only one blown save, Phillips looked uncharacteristic from the start of his outing.

He issued a pair of one-out walks, his first time walking multiple batters in a single appearance all year. In the next at-bat, Pirates third baseman Jared Triolo lined a low slider back up the middle for a game-tying single, ending Phillips’ 10-game scoreless streak.

There was little Phillips could do on the Pirates’ game-winning hit, throwing an 0-and-2 cutter up in the zone that Josh Palacios sliced the other way for a two-run double down the line.


But by the time the inning ended, the second-guessing about the Dodgers’ decision to use Phillips — particularly after Roberts had told reporters pregame Phillips would be rested Tuesday night — was only starting.

“I don’t know if it was workload or whatever,” Roberts said of Phillips’ struggles, “but if the player says he feels good, then you got to trust it.”

Added Phillips, after only his second three-run outing this year: “That fatigue is somewhat underlying, in a sense. It’s hard to be aware of. But it’s a challenge that I accepted and told myself I could be aware of and get through that outing. It just didn’t work out that way.”

The Dodgers’ pitching problems started long before Phillips took the mound.

Rookie starter Emmet Sheehan lasted just 3 ⅔ innings, giving up five runs after some mechanical inconsistencies led to four hits and four costly walks.

Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski scores on a single by Jared Triolo as Dodgers catcher Will Smith stands.
Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski, right, scores on a single by Jared Triolo as Dodgers catcher Will Smith stands at the plate during the ninth inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“I feel like I’ve been getting better since I got here,” said Sheehan, who now has a 4.35 ERA through four MLB starts. “This week obviously was my worst so far. But just got to work on it, come back next week.”


With Sheehan facing a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth inning, Roberts decided to turn to the bullpen early, summoning his lone left-hander, Caleb Ferguson, to strand one of the runners.

“When you’ve got to use Ferguson in the fourth inning to try to minimize damage,” Roberts said, “then certainly the margin for error is minimized.”

Despite that, the Dodgers (47-38) mounted a rally.

Mookie Betts moved into sole possession of fifth place in the majors with his 23rd home run of the year.

James Outman ended a 34-game home run drought by connecting on two key blasts: A two-run homer in the second inning for a 3-2 Dodgers lead, then another two-run shot in the fourth.

In the top of the sixth, the Pirates (40-45) pulled even again when Henry Davis lined an RBI single off Gavin Stone, the right-handed prospect who returned to the Dodgers’ big-league roster this week to serve as a long reliever.

Stone, however, limited the damage later in the inning by escaping a bases-loaded jam.

Then, in the bottom of the eighth, rookie outfielder Jonny Deluca came off the bench and launched his first career home run to left field, receiving a curtain call from a crowd of 51,487 after putting the Dodgers in front 7-6.


“Those are obviously the spots you dream of being in,” said Deluca, an Agoura High product who grew up as a Dodgers fan. “You can’t really describe it in words. It’s just really special having it be here.”

As soon as Deluca’s homer landed in the seats, Phillips got off of his in the Dodgers’ bullpen and began warming up.

By that point, Brusdar Graterol was the team’s only other option, and he would have been making his third appearance in four days.

Mo’ne Davis became a national figure during the Little League World Series in 2014. Now a college graduate, she’s interested in a front-office career.

July 3, 2023

So, with Phillips’ pregame assurance still ringing in his ears, Roberts decided to turn to his most trusted reliever for the final three outs.

“Especially after Jonny hit a big home run for the team like that, I really felt like that was the momentum shift we needed,” Phillips said. “That I could come in and finish the game for us.”

Instead, just like the Independence Day fireworks lighting up the sky around Chavez Ravine, the plan blew up in the team’s face.


“We did the best we could. We got to a position to win the game,” Roberts said. “It just didn’t happen.”

Echoed Phillips: “It really hurts, without a doubt.”