At the start of the season, the Dodgers’ reliance on young starters seemed to be the biggest potential pitfall facing their pitching team.
In a disheartening 7-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, however, it was abundantly clear that the real holes were in the bullpen.
Despite six hitless innings from rookie right-hander Emmet Sheehan, some dazzling plays from the defense behind him and a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning, the Dodgers saw their bullpen blow the game. Again.
Brusdar Graterol gave up a two-run homer in the seventh. Victor González and Tayler Scott were the culprits for a disastrous three-run rally in the eighth.
Then, after the Dodgers rallied in the ninth to bring the game to extras, Alex Vesia faltered in an 11th inning two-run, putting the team behind for good in front of 49,074 at Dodger Stadium.
“Emmet was fun to watch, very excited for him, and we made some great plays behind him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I wish I could have finished with a win.”
Such regret has become a familiar feeling for the Dodgers (39-31).
The team’s bullpen lost a two-run lead in the eighth inning Wednesday. They suffered defeats three times on last week’s road trip.
Of their 14 losses in the last 24 games, a reliever has been charged with the loss in 11 of them.
It didn’t help that top reliever Evan Phillips, as well as high-leverage right-handers Yency Almonte and Shelby Miller, were all unavailable on Friday due to recent workload, with each of them earning an extra inning. the day before.
Yet just when it looked like the rotation had uncovered a promising young gem — getting a spectacular performance from Sheehan, a 23-year-old prospect who hadn’t even pitched a triple-A game before Friday — a bullpen with the second-worst major earned run average (4.89) again failed to finish.
“I’m going to keep racing them out there,” Roberts said. “I will continue to believe in them and expect good results to come.”
It was all so reminiscent of Ross Stripling’s MLB debut in 2016 – not because another Dodgers rookie was pulled from his debut in the middle of a tie game, but also because the Dodgers took a late lead. on the Giants that night as well.
This time, at least, there were other culprits.
Outside of a four-run rally against Sean Manaea in the fifth, the Dodgers’ only other run came on a Freddie Freeman bloop single in the bottom of the ninth.
After that, Mookie Betts made two costly mistakes on the bases. On the ninth, he was ejected trying to steal third base.
Then in the 11th, after the Giants dropped a popup on the field and threw the ball away, Betts failed to see baserunner Michael Busch stop at third base in front of him, resulting in a wasted count. a potential two-on-one. situation.
“I just screwed it up,” Betts said. “Assume yourself fully.”
Roberts’ decision to pull Sheehan earlier in the night was also questioned, although the manager deemed it an “easy decision” despite his unreliable bullpen and Sheehan throwing just 89 pitches.
“I was actually looking at it after five innings, considering how much use he had of it,” Roberts said, referring to the fact that Sheehan had never pitched more than six innings as a professional. “But where the state of the pen was, I was trying to squeeze another innings. So to get him past sixth, I thought that was huge.
A 2021 sixth-round pick who had yet to pitch a game above the double-A, Sheehan was so far off the radar at the start of the season that he never pitched in the big league’s spring camp. Dodgers league.
But then, like the rest of the team’s talent-rich Double-A rotation, Sheehan began to dominate. In 12 games with the club affiliate in Tulsa, Okla., the right-hander posted a 1.86 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 53⅓ innings.
Last week, he was called up to triple-A Oklahoma City, promoted alongside his rotational double-A teammate Landon Knack.
Sheehan was scheduled to make his triple-A debut on Friday. Instead, with the Dodgers running out of throwing options, the Boston College product was called up to Los Angeles.
“I was definitely a little overwhelmed,” Sheehan said. “I was just trying to go out there, make it the same game as double-A.”
He did just that, offering just two walks while riding his top ’90s lead to three strikeouts and a series of soft touches.
“To have the Dodger fans and my family behind me,” said Sheehan, who was greeted by more than a dozen friends and relatives outside the club after the game, “I wouldn’t have could have dreamed of a better start.”
“Plus a Dodger win,” he added.
Alas, whatever optimism Sheehan – who did not question Roberts’ decision to retire him after the sixth – provided with his performance was short-lived.
Graterol lost the no-hitter bid on a bloop single to lead in the seventh. Then he served a two-run homer to Wilmer Flores that sparked the Giants’ comeback.
In the eighth, González got the nod over fellow inconsistent lefties Vesia and Caleb Ferguson, but soon got into trouble. When the Dodgers needed a right-hander later in the inning, Scott was the better option, despite his 10.13 ERA this season.
Predictably, the Giants took advantage, scoring three runs to take a 5-4 lead.
About an hour later, they broke through again, scoring Vesia with back-to-back RBI singles to complete the Dodgers’ latest bullpen implosion.
Max Muncy listed on injured reserve
The Dodgers placed Max Muncy on the injured list with a pulled hamstring on Friday, finally making the move five days after being hurt. Busch was called in to replace him.
David Peralta and Chris Taylor also left Friday’s game early with injuries.
Peralta came out in the second inning with a strained left hamstring after walking awkwardly onto first base. He will not play on Saturday.
Taylor was retired at fourth with a sore right knee, after appearing to limp while running for first base a few innings earlier. He needs to pass more tests.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.