The opener made its return for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. Caleb Ferguson made the start as the Dodgers looked to win the series and go .500 on their six-game road trip. Some tough luck resulted in an early deficit and hole that the Dodgers were unable to climb out of. Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward left the yard, but there was not much else working for the boys in blue on Sunday. Taijuan Walker was great for Philadelphia, shutting the Dodgers out for five innings and propelling the Phillies to a 7-3 victory.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
In baseball, trends come and they go. Since the shortened year in 2020, baseball has seen the very quick rise of “the opener”. Used as an alternative to the starting pitcher, managers became tasked with using multiple different relievers, generally between 4-6, to navigate a full nine innings.
Dave Roberts opted to give Tony Gonsolin extra rest and turn Sunday’s series finale into a bullpen game. Caleb Ferguson, the first of nine different Dodger pitchers to toe the rubber on Sunday, made the start. The Phillies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a Bryce Harper single in the 1st, added two more runs in the third and shut the door in the late innings.
Tayler Scott, Alex Vesia and Nick Robertson, pitchers who have spend nearly their entire seasons in the minor leagues, gave up six of the seven runs on Sunday afternoon. It’s tough to ask a struggling bullpen to get through nine innings, but getting Gonsolin extra rest benefits the Dodgers in the long-term.
I sound like a broken record but it has to be mentioned. Just when the Dodgers’ 4-9 started to turn it around and really lengthen the lineup, they come back down to Earth.
Outside of a Jason Heyward solo home run, the Dodgers’ 4-9 hitters went a combined 0-22 on Sunday afternoon. Frankly, that just isn’t going to result in winning baseball games. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and J.D. Martinez are going to perform when it counts. That’s not something Dodger fans should be worried about. That being said, I am worried about everyone else come playoff time.
Max Muncy hits the ball out of the yard, but hasn’t been doing much else at the plate. Outman, Rojas, Heyward and Taylor concern me. It’s hard to live and die by the long-ball in October. The Dodgers are going to need to be able to string hits together and manufacture runs, something they have had issues doing given the lack of consistency in the bottom half of the order.
Time to head home
The Dodgers love playing at home. At 20-10, they currently hold baseball’s third highest home winning percentage, trailing only the Tampa Bay Rays (31-7) and Texas Rangers (21-9). On the road, they’re below .500 (17-19). Needless to say, getting back to Chavez Ravine is a big deal.
16 of LA’s last 22 games have been played on the road, and only six of those games resulted in wins. Following an off-day on Monday, the Chicago White Sox come to town for the first of six consecutive home games. The Dodgers then head to Anaheim for two quick games before heading back up the 5-freeway for a three game series with the Astros. So, if you’re like me, you’ll refer to this as an 11-game home stretch.
As previously mentioned, the Dodgers are off tomorrow and begin a three-game interleague series with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night. It’s Will Smith bobblehead night, so get there early.