LOS ANGELES -- The weekend series against the Rockies didn’t go quite like the Dodgers planned. Los Angeles dropped two of three against Colorado and wasted two opportunities to cut into the Giants’ lead atop the National League West standings.
But in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 5-0 loss to the Rockies on Sunday, the team got a moment of levity as third baseman Justin Turner took the mound for the first time in the Majors, sunglasses and all. Not only did Turner make his pitching debut, he needed just 10 pitches to toss a scoreless inning. His career ERA now stands at 0.00.
Turner’s outing got off to a rough start, as he allowed back-to-back singles to Trevor Story and C.J. Cron. But Turner was able to mix in some mid-70s fastballs and a couple of pitches in the mid-50s. He got Rio Ruiz to fly out, induced a groundout from Sam Hilliard and got Dom Nuñez with another flyout.
Turner became the fourth Dodgers player to play third base and pitch in a single game, joining Jeff Hamilton, Robin Ventura and Russell Martin. He also became the 38th pitcher used by the Dodgers this season, an extension of a franchise record.
“That was awesome,” said Dodgers pitcher Mitch White. “I didn’t realize that was his first time. He mixed in, I don’t know if it was a knuckleball or eephus or something like that, but that was cool.”
While Turner’s performance was one of the few positive moments for the Dodgers this weekend, it was an interesting decision by manager Dave Roberts to lean on a position player to pitch in that situation. Inserting a position player to pitch usually represents a team waving the white flag. At that point, the club is only looking to save a bullpen arm for a game they have a better chance of winning. But with the Dodgers down five runs -- and in the middle of a pennant race -- the move to Turner resulted in some confusion.
Roberts explained that he approached Turner about possibly pitching the ninth. With the Dodgers showing no signs of life offensively, Roberts said that, in his opinion, Sunday’s game looked like one his club wasn't going to win. That’s why he went to Turner as opposed to relievers Alex Vesia and Phil Bickford, who have been two of the most-used relievers over the last month.
“We had some guys that we wanted to stay away from,” Roberts said. “When you’re down 5-0 and you have three hits through eight innings, the likelihood of coming back to win [is low], so to use a leverage guy in the ninth, I didn’t feel good about that.”
Weirdly enough, however, the Dodgers used closer Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning, putting his availability for Monday in jeopardy given that he hasn’t pitched in three consecutive games at any point this season. Roberts said Jansen was “on board” with pitching in the eighth on Sunday.
“I’ll see how he feels as far as pitching. But when you’re talking about the closer, he’s resilient,” Roberts said. “If it’s a save situation, I think that would be the conversation, but he’s throwing the heck out of the baseball.”
The Dodgers welcome the Braves for a three-game set starting on Monday.