Dodgers rally to keep pressure on NL West

September 24th, 2021

DENVER -- The Dodgers saw their division hopes flash before their eyes. They were down to their last out in what would’ve been a disappointing series loss to the Rockies. To make matters worse, as they looked up at the out-of-town scoreboard, they could see that the Giants had taken a brief lead over the Padres in San Diego.

A three-game deficit with nine games remaining in the regular season almost seemed insurmountable given the Giants’ historic season. But with their backs against the wall, the Dodgers responded with a 7-5 win on Thursday at Coors Field.

Mookie Betts got the rally started with a single to right field. Corey Seager then followed with a single of his own, a hard shot that ricocheted off Rockies reliever Carlos Estévez. Just like that, the Dodgers had life. But they needed one more big hit.

Trea Turner stepped up to the plate and delivered a clutch RBI single to tie the game. There was pure elation inside the Dodgers’ dugout, each player knowing what was at stake. It was easily Turner’s biggest hit since arriving in Los Angeles and one of the most important swings by a Dodger this season. In the 10th inning, Max Muncy’s two-run shot completed Los Angeles’ comeback win over Colorado.

With the win and the Giants’ 7-6 loss to the Padres, the Dodgers are now one game back in the National League West division race with nine games to go.

“He’s a baseball player and I think that’s the highest compliment I can give somebody,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts when asked about Turner. “Superstars make plays and rise to the occasion, and that’s what he did today for us.”

Starter Max Scherzer had his first rough outing since joining the Dodgers, allowing five runs over five innings. The five earned runs on Thursday matched the total he had allowed in his first nine starts with the team. It was the first time since Aug. 21 that Scherzer allowed an earned run.

Despite Thursday’s rough outing, Scherzer has, deservingly, dominated the headlines since joining the Dodgers. His 0.78 ERA coming into Thursday’s start is one of the best nine-game stretches of his decorated career.

But because of Scherzer’s incredible performances on the mound, it’s often overlooked that the Dodgers also acquired Turner in the same deal with the Nationals for four prospects, including their top two in catcher Keibert Ruiz and right-hander Josiah Gray. As excited as the Dodgers were to acquire Scherzer, they were just as ecstatic about getting Turner, who is one of the most dynamic players in the Majors.

Turner has put that on full display since joining the Dodgers, posting a .318 batting average with the club after his 3-for-4 performance on Thursday. He has also given the Dodgers a much-needed threat on the bases. On Thursday, Turner showed his clutch side.

“We just had a good feeling about what was happening. We saw the momentum, we felt good about Trea being up at the plate,” Scherzer said. “I kept telling the guys, ‘Trea loves hitting here, he’s going to get it done.’ And sure enough, he got it done.”

Once Turner tied the game, there was an urgency to complete the comeback. Roberts went to closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning in order to get the game into extra innings. Once in extras, it took Muncy just one pitch to launch a two-run homer to give the Dodgers a 7-5 lead. Muncy pumped his fist up in the air as he rounded first, a sigh of relief for the slugger, who was hitting .206 in September.

“He [Muncy] needed it a lot,” Roberts said with a grin. “He’s grinding like everyone in September is.”

After an Albert Pujols groundout resulted in the second out of the ninth inning, the Dodgers had a three percent chance of winning the game. Had they lost, their chances of winning the division would’ve virtually plummeted to a similar number. Instead, the Dodgers found new life in what is shaping up to be one of the best division races in recent memory.

“We know we’re a great team, we know we can come back from any situation, we know we can win any game,” Muncy said. “But sometimes when you come from behind and win like that, it reaffirms it and gets it fresh in people’s minds.”