Max Scherzer starting the winner-take-all National League Wild Card Game did not produce expected results, which put a significant amount of pressure on the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen. Exacerbating matters against the St. Louis Cardinals was the Dodgers only carrying 10 pitchers.
That of course included Scherzer, and also Julio Urias, whom manager Dave Roberts was hopeful to not call on and preserve for a potential start in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. And if Urias was needed in the one-game playoff, Roberts didn’t anticipate it being before the eighth inning.
Scherzer again struggled with his command and begrudgingly came out of the game with one out in the fifth inning. Joe Kelly inherited two baserunners and retired both batters faced to keep the score tied.
Kelly was the first of five Dodgers relief pitchers who appeared in the game. They combined to throw 4.2 scoreless innings and help set the stage for Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
“They have been our backbone all year long,” Justin Turner said of the Dodgers’ bullpen. “For them to go out and give us four-plus shutout innings and give the offense a chance to keep coming up and take a big swing, you can’t say enough about those guys.”
Cody Bellinger echoed Turner: “They’ve been outstanding. I mean, they’ve been doing this all year. They did it on the big stage, so a lot more people could see. They came out and did four scoreless, and like J.T. said, they are the backbone of the team.
“They’ve been doing it all year, and just props to them for being able to do it and continuing to do it. It’s not easy. It’s not easy.”
The performance was much of the same from the regular season, when Dodgers’ relief pitchers were second in baseball with a collective 3.16 ERA, third with a 1.19 WHIP and fifth in WAR (6.5).
Roberts has options in Dodgers bullpen
Although the Dodgers only had nine pitchers on their Wild Card Game roster to back Scherzer, there was versatility amongst the group.
“I trust those guys, the pitching staff, the run prevention group, front office as far as information,” Roberts said.
“It’s a collective effort as far as trying to put those guys in the best position to have success, and ultimately the players have got to make pitches and make plays, and they’ve done that time and time again.
“We didn’t have any margin, and starting with Joe coming in in that big spot, turning point of the game. … It’s the deepest ‘pen (since managing Dodgers). A lot of neutral arms.”
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