LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers leaned on their bullpen to keep their season alive on Thursday night, but if they’re going to pull off a second consecutive National League Championship Series comeback against Atlanta, they’ll have to do so without a key member of their vaunted relief corps.
“Just the way it reads right now,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, “that will be it for the rest of the season for him.”
Kelly posted a 2.86 ERA in 48 appearances during the regular season, and he had become a critical middle-innings piece in front of Los Angeles’ back-end trio of Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen.
Roberts did not confirm the replacement for Kelly on the Dodgers’ postseason roster, but it seems likely it will be David Price. The veteran left-hander was on the NL Division Series roster but didn’t pitch, then he was left off the roster for the NLCS against Atlanta. Price posted a 4.03 ERA in 39 appearances this season.
“We're considering some guys,” Roberts said. “But David is obviously at the top of the list.”
Kelly, who was serving as the opener for a planned bullpen game on Thursday, threw 28 pitches before he was evaluated by a team trainer on the Dodger Stadium mound. He was removed mid-at-bat, with the Dodgers trailing the Braves, 2-0.
It’s unclear whether the injury was bothering Kelly throughout the first inning. He was hit hard, allowing two hits, including Freddie Freeman’s booming two-run homer. Kelly recorded only two outs before he was replaced by right-hander Evan Phillips, who struck out Adam Duvall to end the inning.
Kelly became the first Dodgers starter to not complete the first inning in a postseason game since Bob Welch failed to record an out in Game 4 of the 1981 World Series against the Yankees.
Nonetheless, Los Angeles became just the fourth team in AL/NL postseason history to win an elimination game in which its starter lasted less than an inning -- and the first since the 2017 Yankees beat the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game after Luis Severino’s early exit. The other two were the 1924 Senators in Game 7 of the World Series and the 1925 Pirates in Game 7 of the World Series.
Six Dodgers relievers combined to pitch 8 1/3 scoreless innings, sending the series back to Atlanta with the Braves leading, 3-2.