LOS ANGELES -- After an emotional two-game series against the Astros, Dodgers star outfielder Mookie Betts said his team needed to find a way to show a sense of urgency every night, much like they did against Houston.
That sense of urgency was lacking in the Dodgers’ loss on Friday, but the team was able to seize the moment on Saturday, bouncing back with a big 5-3 win over the Angels at Dodger Stadium.
“We had a few good at-bats there at the end of the game and we were able to capitalize,” said Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor, who delivered with the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth. “That was a huge win for us, especially after a tough one last night. So for us to respond tonight and come back to get the ‘W’ was big.”
For six innings, it appeared the Dodgers were headed for another disappointing loss. Julio Urías wasn’t as sharp as he has been this season, allowing three runs (two earned) over five innings. The defense also had a big miscue as a Jo Adell popup inexplicably landed in the infield grass allowing the Angels to take a 3-2 lead.
With things not going their way and Angels starter Jaime Barria continuing to record outs on the mound, the near-capacity crowd was starting to get restless, especially when it could take a peek at the out-of-town scoreboard and see that the Giants beat the Brewers and were threatening to take a five-game lead in the National League West.
Instead, the Dodgers turned it on and there were several moments that bode well for L.A. moving forward. Cody Bellinger, who has had a forgettable season at the plate, tied the game in the seventh on a mammoth solo homer off Barria. It was only Bellinger’s third homer in his last 31 games, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Bellinger, who will get most of his playing time against right-handed pitchers for the time being, couldn’t help but break out a big smile as he entered the home dugout. It’s the type of swing that the Dodgers hope could help the former MVP salvage the season.
“I can’t say enough about Cody’s work,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think we live in a world of results, but behind the curtain, he’s grinding and working really hard at his craft. To get a result like that in a big hit certainly was a weight off his shoulder. We needed it. It can absolutely get some other good things in motion.”
Once Bellinger tied it up, it was up to the Dodgers’ bullpen to put up zeros until the offense could put up more runs on the board. Brusdar Graterol stepped up in a huge way.
Graterol, who has also had his fair share of struggles this season, will have to come through in bigger moments now that Jimmy Nelson is out for the season and Victor González is dealing with a right knee injury. If you need proof that Graterol will be tasked with some big opportunities, look no further than the eighth inning on Saturday.
With the game tied and the go-ahead run in scoring position, the Angels turned to Shohei Ohtani as the pinch-hitter. On Friday, the Dodgers intentionally walked Ohtani, a strategy other teams have started to adopt. Roberts admitted that he considered it again on Saturday, but he trusted Graterol in that spot.
Graterol responded by landing two perfect sliders on the inside corner to get ahead in the count. He finished Ohtani off with a 102 mph sinker that the Angels’ star swung right through. It ended the inning and gave the Dodgers all the momentum.
“Brusdar did a great job,” Roberts said. “I just felt that if you pitch him carefully, which was the goal, we had a chance to get him. Credit to him and Will [Smith].”
With just 51 games left, the Dodgers are going to have to find ways to make up ground on the Giants. But with San Francisco continuing its impressive season, the best the Dodgers could do on Saturday was hold serve. They found a way to do just that.