In anticipation of several doubleheaders being required across the sport this season, MLB and the Players Association agreed at the end of July that such games would be shortened to seven innings each for 2020.
Having already played three extra-inning games that now feature a runner being placed on second base, the Los Angeles Dodgers got their first experience with shortened doubleheader games on Thursday.
They swept the San Francisco Giants in the twinbill, cruising to a 7-0 in Game 1 followed by another shutout at 2-0.
“I liked it. For a doubleheader it’s nice. Better than two nines, for sure,” Will Smith said.
He caught the second game of the day, successfully getting seven different Dodgers relievers through it. “It’s not really that much of a challenge,” Smith said.
“Seven innings has really no affect on that. We kind of do that a lot in a normal game once we get into the ‘pen. It was kind of a normal day, where instead of a starter we just had a bullpen game. They did really well.”
Walker Buehler was scheduled to follow Kershaw but a blister on his right hand forced him to the 10-day injured list. Mitch White was recalled as the corresponding move but didn’t appear in either contest.
The bullpen game was in stark contrast to how the afternoon began, as Clayton Kershaw got through six scoreless innings on 86 pitches. “It was two separate types of pitching performances,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“For Clayton to set the tone in Game 1 obviously gave us a lot of flexibility in Game 2. Clayton didn’t think he was sharp, I thought he was getting better through the game. For him to still go out there and compete, throw up zeros through six, I thought was big.
“Then you look at the next game, the way we ran relievers out there, matched up, coming off an off day, I thought it was a great opportunity to get these guys some innings. They pitched really well.”
Roberts opined taking a lead is much more imperative in a shortened game, but also voiced support of seven-inning doubleheaders. “I like the two sevens over the two nines,” he said.
Kershaw “almost forgot” about the arrangement and agreed with Roberts that only playing seven innings makes early leads key. “You don’t want to put your team in a deficit,” Kershaw said.
“Sometimes you give up one or two, it’s not a big deal because your team has a chance to come back, especially on a team as good as ours. But especially after we scored that first run, it’s big to keep the lead as long as we can.
“Honestly, they hit the ball hard. Defense was just really, really good.”
Giants delay first pitch
First pitch for Game 2 at Oracle Park was set for 4:05 p.m. but pushed back 35 minutes in a sudden change. Smith said the Dodgers learned of the change “probably about 4:02.”
“We were ready to go. Guys were getting done stretching. Luckily, Ferg was opening and he hadn’t thrown yet because he was just going to throw the top half of the first,” Smith added. “So he didn’t have to get hot, then cool down and get back up.”
Roberts attributed the change to “confusion” and the Giants wanting to ensure Kevin Gausman had enough time to warm up. There had been speculation the Giants were agitated by the Dodgers’ relatively late announcement of Caleb Ferguson being their starter.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler utilizing the tactic earlier this season was a talking point. Roberts largely downplayed the Giants’ strategy and simply referred to it as a “bit of gamesmanship.”
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