WASHINGTON -- Because of a lengthy rain delay on Saturday, the Dodgers’ bullpen was asked to handle the bulk of the innings and delivered in a big way. On Sunday, the unit came through yet again.
The Dodgers used seven pitchers on Sunday to complete a four-game sweep against the Nationals with a 5-1 win at Nationals Park. Los Angeles has now won nine consecutive games, its longest winning streak of the season, and its longest since winning 11 in 2017.
“The bullpen was fantastic. It was special,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Each guy embraced their lane, their role, got huge outs for us. They started at 11 o’clock on Independence Day and it made a really special day that much greater.”
Trevor Bauer was originally scheduled to start for the Dodgers, but with the right-hander on administrative leave as Major League Baseball continues its investigation into sexual assault allegations, the Dodgers had to pivot to another bullpen game.
Los Angeles has become familiar with bullpen games this year, deploying a handful of them as it waited for Tony Gonsolin to return from the injured list earlier this season. The Dodgers certainly looked comfortable on Sunday.
Garrett Cleavinger served as the opener for the Dodgers and set the tone with a scoreless first. He passed the baton off to Phil Bickford, who continued asserting himself as one of the pleasant surprises for Los Angeles. Bickford allowed a run in 1 1/3 innings, but struck out three and looked sharp in the process. It was the first run Bickford has given up since June 13 against the Rangers.
Part of the reason Bickford got tagged with that sole run was because Victor González couldn’t strand the inherited runners in the third. González will be a key piece to the Dodgers’ success this season, though the left-hander has struggled as of late -- especially with his command. But when he needed to make a big pitch on Sunday, González got Josh Bell to ground into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners in the third. That proved to be a key at-bat in Sunday’s game.
“They’ve had their fair share of a workload, and they’ve done awesome,” said infielder Gavin Lux. “It makes playing defense a lot easier when our guys are coming in and filling it up and making really good pitches.”
As the bullpen took care of business, the Los Angeles offense did just enough to help secure its ninth consecutive win. Matt Beaty got the Dodgers on the board in the fourth with his first homer since June 1. Albert Pujols then delivered a go-ahead RBI and Max Muncy added three RBIs over the final three innings to give Los Angeles some insurance.
The Dodgers’ bullpen now has a 0.76 ERA during the nine-game winning streak, and has combined for five or more innings in three of the nine wins.
Roberts said that using bullpen games makes sense at times, and that this particular group is capable of handling the heavy workload.
“I think they’re great at it because there’s an unselfishness with this group of guys,” Roberts said regarding the team’s success during bullpen games. “They’re talented and they don’t care when they pitch, they just want to pitch and help the next guy.”
The Dodgers didn’t get back to their hotel until well after 1 a.m. ET following Saturday’s game, and had to be back at the ballpark in time to play another game at 11:05 a.m. ET. But not even a lack of sleep was able to slow down the Dodgers’ hot streak.
“It was a tough day for everybody involved,” Muncy said. “Thankfully there were no injuries, and to me, that was the most important part.”