Despite injuries, Dodgers' 'pen holding it down

Betts hits 50th career leadoff HR; Smith wins it with 2-run double in 10th

May 14th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- When healthy, there’s no debating that the Dodgers are one of the best teams in the sport. But through 43 games this season, what has been particularly impressive is how the Dodgers have been able to maintain their spot at the top despite the wave of pitching injuries.

The starting pitching depth has been tested early on as Clayton Kershaw, Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan and Walker Buehler have missed all or a significant part of the season. In the bullpen, the Dodgers are currently without Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier and closer Evan Phillips, four of their top leverage arms. , the other high-leverage arm on the staff, missed the first month of the season after missing all of 2023.

Even with a lengthy injured list, the Dodgers have thrived. On Monday, it was the bullpen’s depth that stood out as the unit tossed 4 1/3 scoreless frames to lead the Dodgers to a 6-4 win over the Giants in 10 innings at Oracle Park.

“I think it’s the old adage, ‘next man up’-type thing,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Four out of your top five leverage guys are not with us right now, and so it creates opportunities. … You get other guys that are pitching huge innings, and we’re learning more about these guys.”

had a bit of an up-and-down start on Monday, allowing four runs over 5 2/3 innings. That was despite getting an early boost from , who hit the 50th leadoff home run of his career, leaving him three behind for fourth all time. The all-time leader is Rickey Henderson with 81, followed by George Springer (57) and Alfonso Soriano (54).

A Luis Matos three-run homer on a hanging curveball in the second inning was the one big mistake Yamamoto made. But to his credit, he was able to limit the damage for as long as he could, retiring 12 consecutive batters following the homer.

With Yamamoto exiting the game in a deficit, it was the bullpen’s job to keep the game within striking distance, buying enough time for the Dodgers’ high-powered offense to punch back. got that started by stranding a pair of runners in the sixth with a strikeout of Jakson Reetz.

In the seventh, delivered a perfect inning. followed with a scoreless eighth against the heart of the Giants’ order. In the ninth, Treinen was giving the task of pushing the game into extras. He did just that, thanks in part to a perfectly executed pickoff for the first out of the frame.

“I think for me, the play of the game was Blake picking that guy off at first base,” said Dodgers utilityman Kiké Hernández, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning. “That was huge. As long as the pitching keeps us in the game, we’re gonna have a chance, and that’s what happened tonight.”

Once the game got into extra innings, the Dodgers’ offense did the rest. Will Smith, who came into Monday’s game 0-for-his-last-18 at the plate, delivered the biggest hit of the night, a two-run double off left-hander Taylor Rogers to put the Dodgers up 6-4.

That set the stage for , who delivered with a scoreless 10th for his first save with the Dodgers and the fifth of his career. The right-hander allowed six runs over his first two outings this season, but he has shown flashes of the reliever that burst onto the scene with Tampa Bay in 2022.

Feyereisen has not allowed a run in any of his last five outings, striking out six over 5 2/3 innings.

“There’s a difference between rehab mode and competing at this level,” Roberts said. “Since he’s been back, everything’s in the strike zone, everything’s thrown with conviction and we’ve had some good results.”

Feyereisen is another example of a Dodgers pitcher getting an extended chance to establish himself in roles that otherwise wouldn’t be available if the club was completely healthy. Over the last 20 games, just about everyone on the pitching staff has responded to the challenge.

The Dodgers are now 16-4 over their last 20 games, building themselves quite the early cushion in the National League West. The biggest driver behind their record, the Dodgers say, is their pitching staff. After all, it’s now 20 straight games that they have limited the opposing lineup to four runs or fewer.

“[They’re] just executing pitches,” Smith said. “They get into situations and are able to get out of it. Right now, guys are throwing the ball well, and just try to keep it going.”