A club that prides itself on rotation stability and depth will go somewhat new-age on Sunday as the Los Angeles Dodgers cover the series finale against the Houston Astros with a bullpen game.
The Dodgers stopped short of saying they were using an “opener,” a strategy first used by the Tampa Bay Rays where a reliever works against the top of the order at the outset and a different pitcher picks up a chunk of the middle innings.
Still, Sunday night’s game at Dodger Stadium will give the Los Angeles bullpen a chance at redemption after Houston scored once in the eighth inning Saturday and five times in the ninth to rally for a 7-5 victory. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (3-1) was charged with five runs (four earned) in the ninth without recording an out to take the loss.
The Dodgers were operating with six starters as recently as two weeks ago, but are down to three after Walker Buehler went to the injured list with a blister, Ross Stripling was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and Dustin May was shifted to day-to-day status after he was hit with a line drive on his foot.
The Dodgers (32-14) have longtime starter Alex Wood working out of the bullpen, but he wouldn’t be able to offer much length if he is called upon to start Sunday.
The Dodgers went with a bullpen game on Aug. 27, a 2-0 win by committee in the second game of a doubleheader sweep. Left-hander Caleb Ferguson started that contest and went one scoreless inning, but he has struggled in September, surrendering five runs on nine hits — three of them homers — in just three innings over four appearances.
The Astros will use a traditional starter Sunday. Former Dodger Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.27 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound in the midst of his rockiest patch of the season.
Greinke has won two of his past three starts, but he has a 5.29 ERA over that three-game stretch and is coming off his worst outing of the season when he gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings in a loss to the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.
He is 7-6 lifetime against the Dodgers with a 4.38 ERA in 17 starts and had a 10.24 ERA in two starts (9 2/3 innings) against them in 2019.
The Astros (23-23) came to Los Angeles after dropping eight of nine games on their current road trip, which ends Sunday.
“That was the win of the year,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said about Saturday’s comeback. “Hopefully after that win, it will get us going big time. The guys, it was nice to see them hooting and hollering and feeling good about themselves because this has been a pretty tough road trip so far. I told them today, ‘If we win both of these games, it’s like the rest of the road trip doesn’t matter.'”
The Astros’ bus was greeted by angry Dodgers fans when it pulled into the Dodger Stadium parking lot Saturday. The fans’ reaction stemmed from the Astros 2017 cheating scandal when an investigation found Houston personnel banged on trash cans to signal opponents’ pitches to their own batters.
The Dodgers lost the World Series in seven games to the Astros that season, but after his disastrous outing Saturday, Jansen said he has moved on from 2017.
“Listen man, this year is another year and we’re in first place and trying to win a championship; 2017 is already in the past,” Jansen said. “I didn’t execute (Saturday). I need to do a better job and I have to go back out there and do better. … That’s unacceptable.”
–Field Level Media