The Dodgers survived a triple-elimination crisis in the National League Championship Series to get here, so this isn’t even their worst moment this month.
But to be one strike away from a commanding 3-1 lead and have it implode into a 2-2 tied World Series was hard to swallow Saturday night, especially after an incredibly bizarre 8-7 walk-off loss to the Rays that poses the possibility of an emotional carryover on both sides.
“Wild game. Back and forth. Up and down,” said Justin Turner. “But like we’ve said all along, we know it’s not going to be easy. We know how difficult this is. We have to learn from tonight, make our adjustments that we need to make and come back and find a way to win a game tomorrow.”
Among the lessons learned is that their reliable defense can commit two miscues on the same play, in this case the final play of the game.
“Unfortunately it was like that unperfect storm, just unfortunate,” said manager Dave Roberts.
How will the Dodgers handle their bullpen in the wake of this collapse? Probably not much differently. They’ll count on Game 5 starter Clayton Kershaw matching his Game 1 start by pitching six solid innings or more.
Jansen, Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen have each pitched in the last two games -- Jansen threw 21 pitches Saturday night, Graterol seven and Treinen 16. Only Treinen has pitched three consecutive games this year -- in the NLCS -- but there is a day off on Monday. And Joe Kelly has pitched only two innings in the Fall Classic.
Jansen got the ninth with a one-run lead Saturday night after impressing Roberts with his velocity and movement Friday night, even though he also allowed a home run to Randy Arozarena. Rookie flamethrower Graterol is now showing up in the eighth inning, but his inexperience, lack of strikeouts and ineffectiveness against left-handed hitters are keeping him from being promoted to closer.
Refer to the Dodgers’ pitching formula for winning the final two games of the NLCS. The bullpen gave it up in the late innings in Games 1, 2 and 4. But the Dodgers still won the series.
This time, Walker Buehler is lined up to pitch Game 7 instead of Game 6. And Julio Urías was the closer out of the bullpen in the NLCS clincher, as he could be in a Game 6 or 7, even after making 80 pitches in Game 4. He’s no longer treated with kid gloves. It’s the World Series. Somebody needs to be a hero.
Jansen played the resilience card after the game, considering the bottom of the ninth mostly unlucky.
“You just can’t beat yourself [up] on that,” Jansen said. “I just totally broke [Kevin] Kiermaier’s bat, and [Brett] Phillips [had] another grenade single. … We’ve got to stay positive. Ain’t no time to hang our heads or anything like that.”
Treinen took over after starter Urías’ 4 2/3 innings and was charged with a pair of runs. But it was Báez’s extended appearance that exposed the Dodgers' reluctance to use left-handed relievers Jake McGee, Adam Kolarek and González, as well as Kelly in late-inning, leverage situations. Maybe Alex Wood can reach back and duplicate his 2017 World Series form, at least as an option against left-handed hitters?
Inheriting two runners from Treinen in the sixth inning with a two-run lead, Báez allowed a three-run homer to Brandon Lowe. And when the Dodgers scored twice in the top of the seventh to regain a 6-5 lead, Báez remained in the game to allow a tying home run to Kiermaier.
Báez faced the lefties instead of a lefty pitcher because his changeup had paralyzed left-handed batters, who were 3-for-31 against him this year. On the other hand, Báez has broken the heart of Dodgers managers in previous postseasons, having allowed crushing home runs to St. Louis’ Matt Holliday (2014), Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo ('16), Boston’s Steve Pearce ('18) and Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman ('19). In this postseason, he’s allowed all six runners he has inherited to score.
Roberts apparently learned a lesson as well.
“Lowe, I just loved the matchup,” said Roberts. “I just felt Petey could pick Blake up right there, and he had 1-2 and didn’t execute a pitch, made a bad pitch and Lowe really put a good swing on it. That next inning, I take blame for having him go back out, and he said he felt good, but you know I shouldn’t have said that and just kind of kept him burning a little bit. So he went out there and then gave up the homer to Kiermaier.
"In that run of hitters, I really felt good with Pedro. We had taken the lead and felt good about him back out there.”