LOS ANGELES -- Over and over again it ends with a walk-off win and Gatorade shower. On Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, it was Enrique Hernández turn, on his bobblehead night, no less, and he gave the simple explanation.
“We like to walk off,” Hernandez said after he followed Corey Seager’s game-tying two-run double with one out in the bottom of the ninth, with an RBI single that gave the Dodgers a 3-2 win over Toronto, a sweep of their Interleague series, their 12th walk-off win of the year and the second in as many nights.
Manager Dave Roberts said what everybody is thinking.
“Twelve times and you expect it, you don’t know who it’s going to be, but I think even after that walk [Max Muncy, leading off the inning], they felt it,” said Roberts. “You start having that and it manifests itself.”
But Roberts also provided a more thorough explanation of this ultra-clutch phenomenon that has contributed to a 51-16 home record, the best in baseball.
Roberts tied it up neatly, linking the Dodgers’ talent, depth, focus and relentlessness at the plate. He thinks the Dodgers are just built to wear down any opponent.
“I think there’s something to that, I do,” he said. “On the larger sense of a season, when you can go 35 [players] deep and keep guys fresh and get guys out of games and give guys a day off, and energized and fresh, and also hungry for more at-bats, that’s a luxury we do have with the depth.
“As far as the game itself, our guys do a great job focusing for 3 1/2 hours. It’s no longer 2 1/2 hours, it’s like 3 1/2 hours. When you’re talking about 300 pitches and plays on the bases … that’s how we play the game. We almost beat teams and we just outlast them.”
Per STATS, the Dodgers have had 23 home games this year where they were trailing in the ninth inning or later and have won seven (30.4 percent). No MLB team in the live-ball era (since 1920) has won at least 30 percent of their home games in which they trailed in the ninth or later.
The magic number to clinch a seventh consecutive National League West title is 14.
And for the first eight innings of this game, the only Dodgers hit was a third-inning single by starting pitcher Kenta Maeda. Toronto starting pitcher Jacob Waguespack had them bewildered for seven scoreless innings, retiring the last 14 batters he faced.
Roberts pointed out that a two-out walk by pinch-hitter Matt Beaty in the bottom of the eighth inning, while it didn’t lead directly to a run, contributed to the winning rally.
“It brings Cody [Bellinger] back in play in the ninth,” Roberts said.
After Muncy’s leadoff walk in the ninth and Justin Turner’s lineout to right field, Bellinger doubled into the right-field corner off a 1-0 changeup from Derek Law, who was pitching because closer Ken Giles had just been placed on paternity leave.
“We’ve been doing it all year,” said Bellinger. “It’s rare. We’re enjoying every moment of it. We’ve been doing a great job of not giving up.”
With the tying runs on second and third, Seager laced a first-pitch fastball for a tying double.
“Just looking to pass the baton, kind of thing,” said Seager. “We don’t give up.”
Hernandez swung through a 1-0 slider, then shortened his swing and lofted a low slider off the end of the bat, just beyond the reach of second baseman Cavan Biggio, and Seager scored.
“That situation, the pressure’s on [Law], he just gave up a two-run lead and the winning run’s on second base,” said Hernandez after his first career walk-off. “He still has to get two outs. Gave me a pretty good pitch to hit. I was able to stay through it and it got over the infield’s head.”