The Los Angeles Dodgers were trailing or tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for their first 26 outs of the game on Sunday, but that didn’t stop them from picking up a walk-off 5-4 victory.
After losing the first three games of the series, the Dodgers turned to Michael Grove, who they promoted just hours before the game, to stop their skid and hopefully provide their overworked pitching staff with a much-needed break.
While making a Major League debut always causes extra nerves on its own, Grove was set to face a red-hot Phillies lineup that had scored 29 runs in the series.
But despite any butterflies he may have been dealing with, the 25-year-old turned in a perfect first inning that led to an overall solid performance as he finished his day throwing 3.2 innings while allowing four runs (all unearned) and adding three strikeouts and three walks.
“It was crazy. I was kind of floating in the first inning or so,” Grove said. “They asked me afterward, ‘Do you even remember the first batter?’ And I was like, ‘Bits and pieces.’ But just really excited for it. It was awesome.
“I had my family and a couple of friends here too, so it was awesome.”
Prior to the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he was expecting to get roughly four innings out of the right-hander, and possibly a fifth depending on how the game was going and how many high-stress pitches Grove was forced to throw.
Had it not been for an error in the second inning by Gavin Lux, it seemed likely Grove would have been able to pitch deeper into the game.
Nevertheless, Roberts was happy with the start his rookie pitcher turned in.
“I thought, as good as we could have expected,” Roberts said. “There were a few walks in there, but there were some strikeouts. There was that 30-pitch inning, 32 pitches I think in that second inning, and for him to be able to get back out there for the fourth inning, knowing he was taxed and stressed and still make pitches and give us some sort of length, it was a big learning experience for him and really proud of him.”
Grove pitched his way into a bit of trouble in the second inning when he gave up a single to Jean Segura and walked Johan Camargo. But with two outs, all Grove needed was to make one quality pitch to escape the jam, and he did just that.
Bryson Stott hit a ground ball to second base that should have ended the inning, but Lux let it go between his legs, and Segura was able to score.
“Yeah, I mean, that just happens. And it’s my job to just keep making pitches,” Grove said. “And obviously, guys like Gavin will make up for it at some point and probably pick me up down the stretch, diving play, double play, something like that. So just need to keep pitching and try to clear your head.”
The Phillies followed the error with a ground-rule double from Garrett Stubbs to drive in another run before Rhys Hoskins singled in two more to increase their lead. After another walk and single, the Phillies once again had the bases loaded, but Grove finally retired the side when Nick Castellanos flied out to center field.
“It’s my job to keep making pitches in that inning,” Grove said about settling back in after the error. “I don’t think I did a great job of that after the error, but the next couple innings just being able to put up a zero and get a couple more outs and get our bullpen a little deeper into the game. I thought was important.”
After the rough inning, Grove did end up settling in again and battled to give the Dodgers another 1.2 scoreless innings before he was replaced by Phil Bickford. Grove was overall content with his performance despite not having his best stuff and being forced to battle on each pitch.
“I think I just didn’t have maybe my best command today,” Grove said. “And I think I learned how to fight through it and find a way to get outs when maybe I wasn’t completely in control. But I thought I fought through it pretty well.”
Grove shared moment with his father prior to debut
Prior to his start, Grove was stretching on the field when he saw his dad, who was coming over to tell him good luck. The two also shared a hug in what grove described as an “emotional” moment for him.
“He always threw me BP growing up and typical father-son baseball journey the entire way,” Grove recalled. “So it was a little tear jerky just to see him right before I was about to take the mound.”
Make sure to follow Dodger Blue on Instagram! It’s the best way to see exclusive coverage from games and events, get your questions answered, and more!