DENVER -- When Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado launched a 456-foot home run into the left-center seats in the fifth inning Sunday, it was the first run given up by the Dodgers' bullpen in 9 1/3 innings pitched in the four-game set at Coors Field -- and the first in
DENVER -- When Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado launched a 456-foot home run into the left-center seats in the fifth inning Sunday, it was the first run given up by the Dodgers' bullpen in 9 1/3 innings pitched in the four-game set at Coors Field -- and the first in 12 innings going back to Tuesday.
The Dodgers brought eight relievers to Denver, and used every one of them. In the first three games of the series at Coors Field, the Dodgers 'pen allowed six hits and one walk while striking out 12 over nine innings.
"The bullpen's been great," manager Dave Roberts said after losing the finale 9-6 to split the series. "This is obviously a tough park to pitch in, and a very good lineup. These guys, when called upon, answer the bell."
Los Angeles relievers entered Sunday leading the National League with a 2.78 ERA, a .219 opponents' batting average, a 3.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 10.88 strikeouts per nine innings.
Sergio Romo, playing his first season in L.A. after nine years with the Giants, has probably struggled more than any of the relievers. He opened the season with a career 2.58 ERA, but his 8.03 mark this season reflects his challenges.
"It's been tough," Romo said. "This year's been more trying up to this point. I can't sit there and put my finger on one thing like, 'This is exactly what's wrong.' I feel good, I feel fine, I feel strong. The ball's coming out of my hand well. It just seems to be that one pitch every outing, so I'm just going to try and iron that out."
Roberts had no hesitation going to Romo after starter Julio Urias hit Charlie Blackmon to open the fifth inning. The Dodgers were down, 5-4, with a man on first and the heart of the order coming up.
"I thought we could try and get through Blackmon, and the next few hitters lined up well for Sergio," Roberts said. "I didn't see the pitch on Arenado, but I know it was a slider. Maybe not down enough. He's a heck of a hitter, and he put a good swing on it."
To hear Romo tell it, he didn't see it either -- or at least he doesn't know what happened once it left his hand.
"It was a slider," Romo said. "I couldn't tell you [if it did what I wanted]. All I know is he hit it."
It was just the seventh home run allowed by the Dodgers' bullpen this season, and their 0.45 home runs per nine innings entering Sunday was the best mark in the NL. Ironically, the last run given up by the Dodgers' bullpen was an eighth-inning solo shot from John Jaso in Tuesday's game against the Pirates.
The 'pen put another three scoreless innings together before giving up a run on Pat Valaika's second round-tripper of the game, a 386-foot blast off a slider from Chris Hatcher, who appeared three times during the series and pitched four innings total.
"I faced him the other day, so I got to see some of his pitches and I had a little bit of familiarity with him," Valaika said. "I got a good pitch."
The Dodgers 'pen has been flush with good pitches -- and a couple to iron out.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.