Entering the season, the Dodgers’ dependence on young starters seemed like the biggest potential pitfall facing their pitching staff.
In a disheartening 7-5 defeat to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, though, it was abundantly clear the real holes are in the bullpen.
Despite getting six no-hit innings from debuting right-hander Emmet Sheehan, a few dazzling plays from the defense behind him, and taking a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning, the Dodgers watched their bullpen blow the game. Again.
Then, after the Dodgers rallied in the ninth to get the game to extras, Alex Vesia faltered in a two-run 11th inning, putting the team behind for good in front of 49,074 at Dodger Stadium.
“Emmet was fun to watch, very excited for him, and we made some nice plays behind him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I wish we could have ended it with a win.”
Such regret has become a familiar feeling for the Dodgers (39-31) .
The team’s bullpen blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning Wednesday. They suffered walk-off defeats three times on last week’s road trip.
Of their 14 defeats in the last 24 games, a reliever has been charged with the loss in 11 of them.
It didn’t help that top reliever Evan Phillips, as well as high-leverage right-handers Yency Almonte and Shelby Miller, were all unavailable Friday because of recent workloads, each of them having pitched in an extra-inning win the night before.
Still, just when it seemed like the rotation had uncovered a promising young gem — getting a spectacular performance from Sheehan, a 23-year-old prospect who’d never even pitched a triple A game before Friday — a bullpen with the second-worst earned-run average in the majors (4.89) once more failed to finish.
“I’m gonna keep running them out there,” Roberts said. “I’m gonna keep believing in them and expect good results to happen.”
It was all so reminiscent to Ross Stripling’s MLB debut in 2016 — not because another Dodgers rookie was pulled from his debut in the middle of a no-hitter, but also because the Dodgers blew a late lead to the Giants that night, as well.
This time, at least, there were other culprits.
Outside of a four-run rally off Sean Manaea in the fifth, the Dodgers’ only other run came on a Freddie Freeman bloop single in the bottom of the ninth.
After that, Mookie Betts made two costly errors on the basepaths. In the ninth, he was thrown out trying to steal third base.
Then in the 11th, after the Giants dropped an infield pop up and threw the ball away, Betts failed to see baserunner Michael Busch stop at third base in front of him, resulting in a rundown that squandered a potential two-on, one-out situation.
“I just messed it up,” Betts said. “Take full ownership.”
Roberts’ decision to pull Sheehan earlier in the night also came into question, though the manager deemed it an “easy decision” despite his unreliable bullpen and Sheehan having thrown only 89 pitches.
“I was actually contemplating it after five innings, given the usage he’s had,” Roberts said, referencing the fact Sheehan had never pitched more than six innings as a professional. “But where the state of the ‘pen has been, I was trying to squeeze another inning. So to get him through the sixth, I thought was huge.”
A sixth-round draft pick in 2021 who had yet to pitch a game above double A, Sheehan was so far off the radar entering the season he never pitched in the Dodgers’ big-league spring camp.
But then, like the rest of the team’s talent-rich double-A rotation, Sheehan began to dominate. In 12 games with the club’s Tulsa, Okla., affiliate, the right-hander posted a 1.86 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 53⅓ innings.
Last week, he was called up to triple A Oklahoma City, promoted alongside double-A rotation mate Landon Knack.
Sheehan was supposed to make his triple A debut Friday. Instead, with the Dodgers running low on pitching options, the Boston College product was summoned to Los Angeles.
“I was definitely a little overwhelmed,” Sheehan said. “I was just trying to go out there, make it the same game that it is in double A.”
That much he did, issuing just two walks while riding his upper-90s mph sinker to three strikeouts and a string of soft contact.
“To have the Dodger fans and my family behind me,” said Sheehan, who was greeted by more than a dozen friends and relatives outside the clubhouse postgame, “I couldn’t have asked for a better debut.”
“Besides a Dodger win,” he added.
Alas, whatever optimism Sheehan — who didn’t question Roberts’ decision to pull him after the sixth — provided with his performance was short-lived.
Graterol lost the no-hit bid on a bloop single to lead off the seventh. Then, he served up a two-run homer to Wilmer Flores that sparked the Giants comeback.
In the eighth, González got the nod over fellow inconsistent lefties Vesia and Caleb Ferguson, but quickly got into trouble. When the Dodgers needed a righty later in the inning, Scott was the best option, despite his 10.13 ERA on the season.
Predictably, the Giants took advantage, plating three runs to snatch a 5-4 lead.
Roughly an hour later, they broke through again, tagging Vesia with back-to-back RBI singles to complete the Dodgers’ latest bullpen implosion.
Max Muncy goes on injured list
The Dodgers placed Max Muncy on the injured list with a hamstring strain Friday, finally making the move five days after he got hurt. Busch was called up to replace him.
David Peralta and Chris Taylor also left Friday’s game early with injuries.
Peralta exited in the second inning with a left hamstring strain after stepping awkwardly on first base. He won’t play Saturday.
Taylor was removed in the fourth with right knee pain, after appearing to limp while running to first base a couple innings earlier. He is due to get more testing.