The Los Angeles Dodgers hold baseball’s best record thanks in no small part to their ability to win close games. Dave Roberts’ club holds a 21-14 record in one-run games and many of those wins, like Wednesday over the St. Louis Cardinals, came in come-from-behind, walk-off fashion.
In fact, Russell Martin’s two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth marked the Dodgers’ seventh walk-off win in their last 21 home games, dating back to their stretch of three straight walk-off home runs from rookies on June 21-23.
Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty had dominated the Dodgers all afternoon, helping keep them scoreless until Martin’s hit. Yet the Dodgers never folded, as Corey Seager was hit by a pitch and Will Smith worked a single to begin the ninth and then raced into scoring position on a wild pitch.
That presents an encouraging sign as the Dodgers gear up for their seventh straight playoff run.
“I think if you look at the late innings — the eighth, the ninth inning — and you kind of project that into the postseason, where every inning, every pitch, every at-bat is important and meaningful, where the ability to still stay in the strike zone and create contact, for me that translates into the postseason,” Roberts said.
Thanks to the heroics of players like Smith, who hit two walk-off home runs over his first 12 games in the Major Leagues, fans at Dodger Stadium have come to expect something special in the late innings.
That feeling apparently seeps down into both the home and visiting dugouts as well.
“Crowd gets into it, we start feeling it, it seems like everyone in our lineup has been in that spot and has come through,” Roberts said. “So once you have that history and feeling, that’s tangible. We keep showing it’s real.”
The walk-off gave the Dodgers a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, a wild card contender who could realistically face the Dodgers in a possible NL Division Series matchup.
The Cardinals also swept the Dodgers in mid-April, starting a six-game losing streak that still stands as the Dodgers’ longest in 2019. Rookie Dustin May went toe-to-toe with Flaherty in his second Major League start, allowing one run over 5.2 innings.
The Dodgers’ bullpen worked into and out of trouble, with scoreless innings from Yimi Garcia, Joe Kelly and Casey Sadler to keep the game close.
“We expected to win that game,” Roberts said. “For Dustin to do what he did, the ‘pen to keep us there, gave us a chance. Then it’s up to the offense to find a way to manufacture a run and put up a crooked number.”