Baez, for a pleasant change, had just heard cheers instead. He had just pulled off the great escape, inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out nightmare from Caleb Ferguson and not letting a run score, preserving the Dodgers’ clutch 3-1 comeback win over the Pirates on Joc Pederson’s two-run triple and gaining Kershaw his first victory in a season delayed by injury.
“The great thing about Petey is, you can’t tell. I love that about him,” Kershaw said of the usually stoic Baez, who did beat his chest twice after striking out Josh Bell for the final out of the eighth inning.
“That’s the mark of a great reliever, a guy you can count on, fans are booing him or whatever. It’s not fair and he knows that. He’s great. I think he’s awesome. Bases loaded and nobody out is a pretty impossible situation. Petey did unbelievable, dominated it, got us out of there and Kenley shut it down.”
That would be Kenley Jansen, who has heard the locals turn on him lately as well. He put the Pirates down in order in the ninth for his ninth save.
“It don’t matter what people think about him,” Jansen said of Baez. “He’s here to help us win ballgames. People go through stuff. He just keeps his composure and focus and gets out of it and now he’s one of the most valuable guys in our bullpen.”
Baez was diplomatic when asked about the fans.
“The fans always have an opinion, that’s why you have to block them out whether it’s going well or whether it’s not going well,” Baez said. “You understand they are fans and they’re going to think what they want.”
With Kershaw, Baez and Jansen, the Dodgers were able to win in non-Dodger fashion. They didn’t hit a home run at home for the first time this season, snapping a streak of 33 consecutive home games dating back to last year. They didn’t even get a base hit from Cody Bellinger, although he did walk and steal a base.
But they did get a start from Kershaw that, if you only look at the box score and not the radar gun, would have brought back memories of any of his three Cy Young Award seasons. He allowed one run on four hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and no walks (after walking four in his last start). He shook off a nasty collision at first base with Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds to make 101 pitches.
His slider was sharp and the fastball had great placement, overcoming the lack of curveball command. He retired 12 consecutive batters at one point.
Baez mixed in secondary pitches that he has, but tends not to use because the fastball is so explosive. He has 16 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings, but also a 3.94 ERA.
“He’s really grown. You can’t get into a bigger spot that that,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Obviously, that was the difference in the game tonight. Over the last couple of years, I’ve put him into some of the toughest leverage situations of any reliever. He’s overcome a lot. He’s a guy we’ve counted on for the last three years. This year he’s really dialed into who he is as a Major League pitcher. No moment is too big for Pedro.
“Things at times the last couple of years have gone south, but he never made excuses. He never ran from big spots. And I think with players, when things don’t go well, you really see how they respond. I’ve learned a lot watching how he’s responded to adversity and success. He’s remained very consistent. You root for guys like that and count on guys like that. It’s no surprise for the success he’s had.”
Pederson, who homered twice off Pirates starter Joe Musgrove in the 2017 World Series, delivered the winning blow, a two-run, two-out triple in a three-run seventh inning that chased Musgrove.
With the Dodgers trailing by a run, Max Muncy started the winning rally with a bouncer headed down the right-field line, a likely double turned into a single when it struck first-base umpire Sean Barber. Alex Verdugo singled Muncy to third and Chris Taylor’s sacrifice fly scored Muncy to tie it, with Verdugo hustling to second on the throw home.
Austin Barnes then bounced to shortstop Cole Tucker, whose throw skipped away from first baseman Josh Bell (ruled a single), with Verdugo taking third. With two out, Pederson sent the first pitch into the right-center gap.