Dodgers rally in AZ to trim magic number to 5

September 25th, 2018

PHOENIX -- There won't be a party anywhere at Chase Field for the Dodgers this week, but they moved closer to a party somewhere by wearing down the D-backs on Monday night in a 7-4 win that trimmed the magic number to clinch the National League West to five.

With Dodgers fans packing the park for the look and feel of a home game, the first-place visitors overcame two deficits and finally took the lead against Arizona's bullpen with seventh-inning runs on pinch-hitter 's RBI single and a run-scoring groundout by Manny Machado before adding three insurance runs in the ninth on a pair of wild pitches by and an RBI double by Machado, who had to hustle for a double after thinking it was gone.

"We waited them out and got to their 'pen," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "We had guys coming off the bench, and that was the difference in the game."

, acquired for stretch-run games like this, had an infield single during the seventh-inning rally, having already homered and singled to drive in the first two runs for the Dodgers, who lead the Rockies by 1 1/2 games with five to play.

"I really like the at-bat quality, and he's gotten big hits for us, but tonight was probably the biggest, the home run that tied the game up," said Roberts. "He's a leader, doing things the right way, and guys tend to follow him.When we're talking about approach and having a plan as a team, he's all in. He's all that we had hoped for."

The feeling seems to be mutual for Freese, who is hitting .375 since being acquired from Pittsburgh on Aug. 31 to give the Dodgers a professional right-handed bat for opposing pitchers like Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

"You understand what this organization is trying to do and you get called upon to help out," said Freese, part of the club's right-handed-hitting platoon. "You do whatever Dave asks of you. You need to be productive and help the team, and so far, I think I've done a decent job of doing my thing and filling my role. This never gets easy, but we're all professional hitters and we're handling it pretty well."

The Dodgers have 40 players active and, from where Arizona manager Torey Lovullo sits, they seemed to use all 40.

"They have a long bench, and it was exactly what our advance scout had predicted -- that after the fifth inning they would start to maneuver and start to roll things over. And we were trying to create the best matchups possible, but you don't have enough guys to do it," Lovullo said. "It's how they've been operating, I'm sure, for several weeks, and it's been working."

After the seventh-inning rally put starter (9-5) in line for the win, the Dodgers bullpen held off the D-backs, with Caleb Ferguson, , and working the final three innings. Jansen allowed a leadoff homer to A.J. Pollock in the ninth, and Maeda's outing was marred when he hit in the face with a 94-mph fastball. The D-backs announced that Walker had a facial contusion.

For the first eight innings, Arizona's offense was all , who homered, tripled, singled and drove in all three runs off Kershaw. Marte also took Kershaw deep in last year's National League Division Series, saying after that he wasn't very impressed by the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. This time around, Marte was more reserved in his comments.

"Every time when I faced him, he would strike me out," the switch-hitter said of his struggles against Kershaw before last year's NLDS. "I didn't think last year I was that good from the right side. Last year, I said, 'I'm going to face you next year, too.' I feel good. I'm trying to do my best out there."

Both starting pitchers struggled to control the damage. Ray entered the game 4-0 against the Dodgers over the past two seasons, but he was trailing after three batters when Freese's single on an 0-2 pitch knocked in Chris Taylor. Ray walked the next two hitters, but the Dodgers stranded the bases loaded.

Kershaw lost that early lead after three batters, on an RBI triple by Marte past diving right fielder Matt Kemp. Marte was stranded at third base, but he made sure that didn't happen in the third inning, when he homered to left with two outs for a 2-1 Arizona lead.

In the fifth inning, Freese came through again, delivering a game-tying, line-drive homer to right field, his 11th this year and second since joining the Dodgers.

But again Kershaw couldn't deliver a shut-down inning and again it was Marte, who cashed in Chris Owings' one-out double with a two-out RBI single for a 3-2 lead.

"We got a run in the first and gave it right back. Freese homered to tie it, and I gave it right back," said Kershaw. "Those are rules of pitching you don't want to break. Fortunate to get through that tonight. The guys really battled and scratched and made their bullpen cover four innings."


Roberts said a key to the game was 's 11-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning. Although it ended in a flyout, it was followed by Freese's home run and it helped run up Ray's pitch count to 100 by the fifth inning, his last.

"I know they wanted to get him through sixth with the lead," said Roberts. "J.T.'s at-bat, you could see he was gassed. He strikes a breaking ball to Freese. Next fastball, he didn't get it where he wanted and Freese hit a home run. J.T.'s at-bat there was key."


Kershaw is 6-1 with a 2.36 ERA over his last 12 starts and 8-1 in his last 15 starts. He's 16-9 in his career against Arizona.


"We can't approach a day looking for help. We put ourselves in a situation where we're in the driver's seat. There's going to be some scoreboard watching, that's natural. But it's on us to take care of our own business." -- Roberts, on not counting on losses by the Rockies, who won their fourth straight game on Monday


starts Tuesday night's tilt against the D-backs and Matt Koch, who fills in for the injured , and fans can watch the 6:40 p.m. PT matchup free on MLB.TV. It's a long shot that Buehler finishes higher than third in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting, but he's already unofficially the No. 2 starter in the Dodgers' rotation. He's coming off one of his best starts, a career-high 12 strikeouts over six innings against the Rockies in L.A.