LOS ANGELES -- On Friday night, for the first time this season, the Dodgers played a game atop the National League West standings. They made sure they stayed there with a dramatic 3-2 win over the Angels at Dodger Stadium.The Dodgers have relied on their roster depth all season to
LOS ANGELES -- On Friday night, for the first time this season, the Dodgers played a game atop the National League West standings. They made sure they stayed there with a dramatic 3-2 win over the Angels at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have relied on their roster depth all season to ascend back into contention; not on their stars, but mostly on players who weren't expected to hold significant roles. For the reigning NL champions, it was somewhat fitting it took a full-team effort to retain their grip on the division.
The Dodgers were clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning when a pinch-hitting Shohei Ohtani stepped up to bat with one out against reliever Scott Alexander, called into action with Kenley Jansen having pitched two consecutive days. When the two clubs faced last week, Alexander had struck out the Angels' two-way star, but on Friday, facing a 2-2 count, Ohtani drilled a double into the gap in left-center, giving the Halos a lifeline.
"I think I kind of had him there on the ropes, then kind of let him get away there," Alexander said. "... That's the thing in this league -- you make one bad pitch and those guys can make you pay for it."
Angels catcher Jose Briceno beat out an infield single to place runners on the corners for second baseman David Fletcher. But before he could step up to the plate, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts met with Alexander on the mound.
"I just wanted to slow it down a little bit," Roberts said. "I felt he was throwing well. … I thought they might put on a play there. [I wanted to] make sure everybody was on the same page."
The decision paid off. On Alexander's first pitch, Fletcher dribbled into a 5-4-3 double play; a wayward throw from second baseman John Forsythe that pulled first baseman Cody Bellinger off the bag and forced him to make a tag on Fletcher nearly spoiled the result.
"A little dicey at the end," said Alexander, "but great play by all of those guys there, [Max] Muncy, Logan. Belly with the nice tag."
The play preserved the Dodgers' slim advantage, thanks to the bat of Muncy, who added to his fairy-tale first half by ripping a solo home run and adding an RBI base knock that proved to be the game-winning sequence.
Trailing, 2-1, and facing Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian -- who hadn't relinquished a run in his last 12 2/3 innings entering Friday -- Logan Forsythe singled and Joc Pederson doubled to lead off the seventh. It set the table for Muncy, who scored Forsythe with a single into right field to tie the game. As the play unfolded, Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun fired a throw home that sailed over the head of Briceno and into the backstop, allowing Pederson to sprint home for the go-ahead run.
"He's a winning player," Roberts said of Muncy. "Whether with the bat, on defense, he's sort of in the middle of everything. Nice to have a lot of guys like him to rise to the occasion."
Calhoun had given the Angels a 2-1 in the fifth inning, when he blasted his second home run of the game off Dodgers starter Walker Buehler, the rookie right-hander who was reinstated from the disabled list earlier in the day. Buehler looked more like himself, a stark improvement from his June 28 outing against the Cubs. Buehler pitched five innings, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk. He struck out five.
Between Buehler's start and Alexander's ninth, Caleb Ferguson (2-1) and Erik Goeddel combined to pitch three no-hit frames across the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, helping improve the Dodgers' record to 52-42 on the season and 9-3 in July. They have a half-game lead over the D-backs in the NL West with two games to play before the All-Star break.
"Great team effort," Alexander said. "Just glad I was able to help out."
At 52-42 (.553), the Dodgers are on pace to post the best pre-All-Star break record for a team that had been 10 games below .500. The previous mark was set by the 2016 Houston Astros, who finished the first half of their campaign at 48-41 (.539).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons reached third with a slick steal attempt, Dodgers first baseman Bellinger made a run-saving play in the top of the third inning. When Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler checked his swing on an 0-2 count, Buehler's 96.6-mph fastball ricocheted into the infield, but didn't result in any runs as Bellinger made a diving catch to end the inning and keep the score tied at 1 apiece.
HE SAID IT
"They're a very well managed team there. You can see the way Mike's managing the 'pen, going to the 'pen aggressively and understanding the matchups. Doing everything he can to play us tough." -- Roberts, on Angels manager Mike Scioscia
Alex Wood (5-5, 3.88 ERA) will draw the start for the Dodgers against the Angels Saturday. The left-hander faced the Angels in his latest start, when he gave up three runs across six innings. The Angels will counter with left-hander Andrew Heaney. First pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. PT.
Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.