Mookie Betts saved the day.
But the Dodgers’ bullpen made it a lot harder than it needed to be.
After his team led early by five runs and then blew it by giving up a combined six in the seventh and eighth innings, Betts came to the plate with a tie at the bottom of the eighth. There were two runners on and two outs.
It was the pivotal moment of the night and the former MVP delivered.
Betts hit a triple home run to left field and put the Dodgers back in front in a 9-6 win over the San Francisco Giants. The moment the ball left its racquet, 53,165 viewers at Dodger Stadium, who were high in the MLB season, jumped to their feet. Long before the No Doubt landed in the pavilion in left field, they all knew he was gone.
A few moments earlier, however, everyone thought it was game over.
After an early barrage of the Dodgers lineup — including a solo home run from Freddie Freeman in the first, an RBI double from Trayce Thompson in the second, and a three-run rally aided by a missed flyball from Giants outfielder Luis González in the third — the Dodgers lead 5-0.
Their starting pitcher, Mitch White, pitched for more than five scoreless innings in which he didn’t give up his first bat until the first batter in the sixth, when it was drawn.
But the Bullpen — a group that has racked up injury after injury and navigated the season closer with unproven middle assists and an unreliable veteran — couldn’t hold on to the lead.
At the top of seventh place, right-hander Phil Bickford gave up a solo home run on Evan Longoria, then gave up a walk and a single before recording an out. He was replaced by left-hander Alex Vesia, who hit a batter to load bases and then whistled a two-hit, two-hit fastball down the center of the plate.
Darin Ruf hit it over the wall in left field and the Grand Slam equalized the score.
Evan Phillips came into play early in the eighth inning.
Replacing the injuries to Blake Trienen, Tommy Kahnle, Brusdar Graterol and Daniel Hudson, Phillips has become the Dodgers’ most trusted center helper, coming into Thursday with a 1.50 ERA and 11 straight appearances without a goal.
On Thursday evening, however, it was immediately clear that the right-hander wasn’t at his best.
Phillips went to five pitches for leadoff hitter Wilmer Flored. Joc Pederson was next and hit a double the other way down the left field line.
With an out, manager Dave Roberts called for an intentional walk by left-hander González, who loaded bases but set up a right-vs-right match against Thairo Estrada.
It did not work. Phillips walked the starting gun home.
The Giants’ 6-5 lead didn’t last long.
At the end of the round of 16, Gavin Lux doubled with an out, then Thompson drove him home off the center wall with a two-out triple.
Cody Bellinger followed with a step to put runners in the corners.
Then Betts came up and hit a center cut switch well outside the ballpark, ensuring the Dodgers started the second half of the season with a win — no matter how ugly it seemed.
Starter just before returning
Roberts had encouraging news Thursday about several injured starting pitchers.
Andrew Heaney started rehabilitation on Thursday, putting him on track to return as early as next week from a shoulder injury.
Dustin May is scheduled for his own rehab excursion on Friday, his first in a full season at a minor-league affiliate since his surgery on Tommy John last year, setting him up for a season debut in mid-August.
And Walker Buehler, who is expected to return from a flexor tendon strain in his elbow sometime in September, is still not throwing, almost six weeks after his injury, but is “trending in the right direction,” according to his manager.
In the bullpen, Brusdar Graterol is now pain free after going on the injured list with a shoulder infection before the All-Star break, but is at least a week away from returning after not throwing during the break.
“We’re obviously trying to be careful with him, but I don’t see that as too long-term,” Roberts said. “It won’t [immediately when] he can get out [the injured list next Tuesday]. I would be shocked if that were the case. But it shouldn’t be long now.”
Blake Treinen is still giving bullpen sessions as he rehabs a shoulder problem, but there’s no concrete timeline for his return just yet.
Among the position players, Chris Taylor is still dealing with a broken foot.
He’s started swinging, grabbing and throwing Grounders, but hasn’t started walking yet.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-21/dodgers-giants-mookie-betts-home-run Mookie Betts’ late three-run blast lifts Dodgers over Giants