LOS ANGELES — Entering the 100th game of the season after a challenging seven-game trip, looking past the dismal Miami Marlins would have been an easy trap for the Dodgers to fall into. But Manager Dave Roberts didn’t think his guys would be lulled into a false sense of a security before the series opener on Friday.
“History speaks very closely to me with the Marlins. Over the last few years, they have played us very tough,” Roberts said. “So we’ve got to come out here and play good baseball.”
It took about six innings, but eventually, the Dodgers lived up to their manager’s words.
The Dodgers took advantage of two walks and an error in the bottom of the sixth to score two runs en route to a 2-1 victory.
The first handful of innings weren’t ones the Dodgers will look back on fondly. They left runners on second and third in the second and another in scoring position in the fourth. A pair of errors made it the sixth game in a row the Dodgers have had at least two blemishes in the field (13 in eight games since the All-Star break).
“It’s kind of one of those things where we’re in an elongated funk,” Roberts said. “But we’ll get out of it.”
True to the earlier form, the rally in the sixth wasn’t the prettiest of the season for the NL West-leading Dodgers (65-35), but it proved to be enough. Alex Verdugo started the frame with a single and Justin Turner followed with a walk, bringing Cody Bellinger to the plate.
But the Dodgers’ MVP candidate struck out swinging on a high fastball, inducing groans from the sellout crowd of 52,471. But A.J. Pollock walked to load the bases and chase Miami starter Zac Gallen from the game.
Corey Seager hit into a fielder’s choice to bring Verdugo home and tie the score at 1-1. A routine grounder to second from Kiké Hernandez should have ended the inning, but Starlin Castro couldn’t control the handoff, allowing Turner to score the go-ahead run.
And that was enough behind another strong outing from Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Much like the offense, Ryu struggled early. His command on his fastball and changeup, his two primary pitches, was off and he found himself in trouble throughout the first few innings as he issued three walks.
“It was very critical for me to get back on track with those two pitches,” Ryu said through a translator before bemoaning the walks. “I was very surprised.”
Ryu slipped off his tightrope in the fourth. Harold Ramirez reached on an infield single when Ryu couldn’t beat the Miami outfielder to first. The next batter was Jorge Alfaro, and his double to left field scored Ramirez all the way from first to give Miami (36-59) a 1-0 lead.
But that was the only mark against Ryu (11-2) in a game in which he struck out seven in seven innings of work. He only faced 10 batters in his last three innings of work, the lone base runner coming on a Seager error. Ryu struck out the side in the seventh to end his night and keep alive his Dodger Stadium dominance. Over his last 12 regular-season home starts, the Dodgers are 12-0 and Ryu has a 0.75 ERA.
“When Hyun-Jin needs to get outs, he does,” Roberts said. “You could see it in that seventh inning, he was smelling it. His pace picked up and the quality of his pitches in the sixth and seventh inning got better as the game went on. That’s the true sign of a top-end guy, when he smells blood and wants to finish a team off.”
Ryu yielded the mound to Kenta Maeda, who pitched a perfect eighth after being removed after two innings of his Thursday start because of a lengthy rain delay in Philadelphia.
“It was electric; it really was,” Roberts said. “You saw some 94s there. The slider was really on point.”
Kenley Jansen then struck out the side in the ninth for his 24th save as the Dodgers improved to 38-12 at home.
After the choppy first few innings, the Dodgers would gladly take the smooth sailing late in the game.
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) July 20, 2019