The Dodgers’ late-game rally against the Chicago Cubs began Friday night after their starting pitcher blocked home plate.
After trailing three runs, the Dodgers completed a 4-3 win in walk-off fashion and won their fifth straight game at Will Smith’s RBI single by the end of the 10th game.
And if Tyler Anderson’s block of home plate hadn’t been about an hour earlier, it might never have happened.
In the sixth inning, Anderson gave up a two-run double against the Cubs’ Ian Happ to extend the visitors’ early 1-0 lead to 3-0.
Two batters later, Happ was at third base when Seiya Suzuki slammed a chopper back toward the mound. Happ made contact. But Anderson catches the ball cleanly to catch it in a rundown.
After several throws in the pickle, Smith pulled up the third baseline and Anderson covered home plate. When Anderson received a throw from third baseman Justin Turner, Happ was still a few steps away and seemed as good as out.
Nonetheless, Happ dropped his shoulder and worked his way into Anderson’s midsection. The pitcher captured the day. He then angrily punched Happ in the back as the Cubs runner fell to the ground.
By then, the Cubs were in control.
But after the home plate fight between Happ and Anderson, which gave up three runs in a seven-inning start, the Dodgers finally came to life.
They scored a run in the sixth after Freddie Freeman doubled and hit on the right flank on a dropped fly ball by Suzuki. They were within one in seven thanks to Jake Lamb’s first home run as a Dodger.
By the end of the ninth game, the Dodgers had finally made it 3-3 thanks to a base-laden sacrifice fly from Mookie Betts that almost left the stadium.
At the end of the 10th, Smith walked away and lined a 2-and-2 fastball from Cubs relief Rowan Wick to the left for an RBI single.
It was the Dodgers’ second walkoff win at that homestand, winning eight of nine games.
Brusdal Graterol avoids injuries
After leaving Thursday’s game early with a side cramp, Brusdar Graterol felt better on Friday and doesn’t need to be put on the injury list, according to manager Dave Roberts.
“[In] start playing, he let it rip,” Roberts said. “He’s in a good place.”
Roberts said the team is releasing Graterol on Friday, but more because of recent use than injury concerns.
“He’s great in terms of his physical condition,” said Roberts.
It was good news for the Dodgers, who have been conceding a more prominent role to Graterol lately following several other injuries in the bullpen.
While Graterol has a 3.52 ERA this season, he’s been excellent lately, giving up just two runs in his last 14 innings.
Craig Kimbrel is looking for consistency
Craig Kimbrel is still the Dodgers’ closer.
But questions about his inconsistent form over the past two months continued to intensify on Friday, a day after he failed to complete the ninth inning of a save opportunity due to a high pitch count.
“The inconsistencies, given who he is, I think we’re all surprised by that,” Roberts said.
Kimbrel’s outing Thursday increased his season ERA to 4.82 and walks plus hits per inning (WHIP) to 1.54, both of which are the worst among any Dodgers pitcher with at least 10 appearances this season.
After starting his season with eight goalless performances in his first nine games, the right-hander has now given up at least one run in 11 of his last 21.
Roberts said Kimbrel’s biggest problem this year has been command of the curveball.
A two-pitch pitcher throughout his career, Kimbrel had increasingly relied more on his curveball and less on his fastball in the upper 90s in recent seasons. Last year he threw the curveball more than 40% of the time, a personal high.
This season, however, his commitment and effectiveness on the field have plummeted. He now only throws it 33.5% of the time. There will also be fewer outs and puffs.
“The form is different on almost every throw and there’s a lot of non-competitive misses with the breaking ball,” Roberts said. “That’s going to increase your pitch count and obviously put you in some counts you don’t want to be in. I think that’s something we need to work together to leverage and find some consistency.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-08/dodgers-beat-cubs-fifth-straight-win-will-smith-single-in-10th Dodgers beat Cubs on Will Smith’s walk-off single in 10th