Dodgers take new route to secure 90th win

Fresh bullpen arms Reed, Hembree provide big lift vs. Mets

August 31st, 2022

NEW YORK -- Nearly everywhere they go, opposing teams play up when the Dodgers are in town. For contending clubs, a series against Los Angeles, which owns the best record in the Majors, usually serves as a litmus test.

That holds particularly true in the three-game series against the Mets, who own the second-best record in the National League and could be one of the toughest challenges for the Dodgers in October. But just as they’ve done all season, the Dodgers were up to the task.

Behind a three-RBI game from Gavin Lux and Jake Reed's first career save, the Dodgers punched first, beating the Mets, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Citi Field. With the victory, the Dodgers became the first team to 90 wins this season.

They joined the 2017 Dodgers, '01 Mariners and 1998 Yankees as the only clubs in the Wild Card era to win 90 or more through their first 128 games of the season. The magic number to win the NL West is down to 14.

“It’s a very good ballclub over there,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “The crowd was energetic. If you’re here, you might as well try to win the game. Our guys had that mindset and we scored enough.”

Despite the U.S. Open being held next door, the Mets had a large crowd in attendance. That included Australian musician Timmy Trumpet, who was prepared to play closer Edwin Díaz’s walkout song in a live performance if New York had a save appearance.

The Mets were fully prepared to party. The Dodgers had other plans, and they did it in an unorthodox way.

With the Dodgers having just four available relievers, according to Roberts, they turned to veteran Heath Hembree and Reed -- both of whom were added to the active roster a few hours before the game -- to pitch in high-leverage innings.

In fact, neither Hembree nor Reed were part of the Dodgers’ organization or on their radar just a few months ago. Both entered with a season ERA above 7. But Hembree was able to deliver a scoreless sixth inning despite getting into some trouble to pick up his third win of the year.

Then, with a one-run lead in the ninth, Reed -- who was designated for assignment by the Mets this season -- recorded his first career save, letting out a lot of emotion and stunning the Citi Field crowd.

“[Roberts] came up and said, ‘No one will ever be able to take that away from you,’ and that’s true,” Reed said. “I’m just thankful again to get an opportunity in that situation. I know we were down a lot of arms in the bullpen tonight and that’s kind of what led to it. But I’m just thankful that they trusted me enough to do it.”

Reed said Roberts told him before the game to be ready to potentially pitch the ninth inning. Because Reed was the pitcher who could provide the most length, the Dodgers wanted to make sure they used him in a situation that would allow him to go multiple innings, if needed.

The 29-year-old said this game exceeded his Major League debut and called it “one of the best moments of my life.”

“This is one of the great moments for me personally,” Roberts said. “It was just good the way it worked out and just so, so happy for him.”

Before the Dodgers’ bullpen tossed four scoreless innings, left-hander Andrew Heaney continued to show signs of progress on the mound. Heaney’s start was a bit uneven, allowing three runs (two earned) over five innings.

But the left-hander struck out eight and recorded 21 swings and misses, a season high and tied for the third most in his career. Heaney could have a role out of the bullpen in the postseason, and his high strikeout numbers bode well for any potential role.

“That’s the beauty of the strikeout, right? If you keep the ball out of play, there’s a zero percent chance of hits,” Heaney said. “It’s kind of what makes it great.”

The Dodgers’ pitching performance gave Lux enough time to eventually drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh. Lux’s OPS is at .806 as he continues his breakout season at the plate.

“He’s grown out of the prospect category,” Roberts said. “He’s a winning player and is learning how to be a winning player around a lot of good players. He’s probably made the biggest strides of anyone this year.”

New York is bringing Timmy Trumpet back on Wednesday. The Dodgers will also face two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. They’ll look to spoil the party once again.