Rain delay, balk and near-comeback make for atypical night in LA

March 31st, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- After four innings, it was already clear that Saturday was an unusual night at Dodger Stadium. For the first time since 2015, there was a weather delay at Chavez Ravine, one that lasted for 35 minutes with heavy rain dumping down on the infield dirt.

Once play resumed, however, things got even weirder.

Starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto got through five scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 6-5 loss to the Cardinals in 10 innings, which was a huge sigh of relief for the club considering how poorly it went for the Japanese right-hander in Seoul, South Korea a week ago.

After that, the last four innings of the game took some wild turns that lasted, literally, until the final out was recorded. Let’s take a look at three of the plays that ultimately decided Saturday’s contest.

Kelly’s balk
With the Dodgers up 2-0 in the seventh, the Dodgers went with Joe Kelly, one of their high-leverage relievers. Because the Dodgers don’t have a high-leverage lefty in the bullpen, Kelly was asked to retire a handful of left-handed hitters in order to preserve the lead.

That plan didn’t work out for the Dodgers this time around as the Cardinals quickly turned on Kelly, with some help from a catcher’s interference by Will Smith, to tie the game at 2. But even with the game tied, it looked like Kelly was going to find a way to limit the damage.

For a second, it appeared that Kelly had retired Victor Scott II for the second out of the inning while keeping the potential go-ahead run at third base. Instead, before the play unfolded, third-base umpire Ryan Blakney called a balk on Kelly that allowed the Cardinals to take a 3-2 lead.

Despite some initial confusion for those watching off the field, the Dodgers -- and Kelly -- knew it was the right call.

“It was a balk,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He didn’t stop. Ryan Blakney got it right.”

After the balk, the inning spiraled out of control for the Dodgers as Brendan Donovan put the exclamation point on a five-run inning with a two-run double off Kelly. It was the end of the right-hander’s night, but certainly not the end of the game.

Down to their last out
With the offense the Dodgers will trot out every night this season, no deficit will ever feel insurmountable.

Trailing by two heading into the ninth inning, the Dodgers had exactly who they wanted at the plate due up against Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley. If everything worked out, all of their stars would get a chance to be the hero.

Mookie Betts, who is off to the best start of his career, hit a solo homer to pull L.A. to within one run. For Betts, it was his fourth consecutive game with a homer, a new career high.

Shohei Ohtani struck out for the second out, but there was still no panic in the Dodgers’ dugout, and for good reason. Freddie Freeman got another rally started with a single. Will Smith followed with one of his own. And with Max Muncy down to his final strike, he punched one into center field to drive in the tying run.

“It’s awesome to know that we’re fighting each and every game, that we put ourselves in good positions to win, take leads and whatnot,” Betts said. “Constantly putting pressure on the other side.”

Teoscar Hernández could have played the role of hero in the ninth and given the Dodgers their first walk-off of the season, but the outfielder struck out looking to end the threat.

Ohtani’s moment?
Since signing a record 10-year, $700 million deal this offseason, the Dodgers are waiting for Ohtani to have his first big moment with his new organization. It’ll come at some point, but it didn’t happen on Saturday.

With the Dodgers, once again, down to their final out in the 10th inning and down by one, Gavin Lux kept the game alive with an infield single. That got Betts back in the box, which was exactly what the Dodgers wanted. After a battle, Betts drew a walk.

That set up a Hollywood script for Ohtani. The bases were loaded, two outs and the most expensive player in the history of the game in the spotlight. But the two-time unanimous American League Most Valuable Player got under a 91 mph fastball from Giovanny Gallegos and popped it up to short to end the game.

Ohtani is still searching for his first homer with the Dodgers and has just one extra-base hit through five games.

“Ideally, obviously, tying the game, whether by walk or single, I saw the ball well and I thought I hit it well, but it ended up being a pop fly,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “Something to do with my timing and just the distance I feel between myself and the ball.”