Dodgers’ bullpen nearly coughed up the lead in 7-5 victory over the D-Backs

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Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill couldn’t overcome his control issues and the Dodgers took advantage in the second and final game played at the Sydney Cricket Grounds in Australia, winning 7-5. They fly back home having swept the D-Backs in the two-game overseas set.

The Dodgers rallied for a two-out run in the first inning when Andre Ethier hit a line drive single to right-center to drive in Yasiel Puig.

In the top of the third, Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu singled to lead off the inning, then advanced to third base on a Dee Gordon double to right-center that was just a few feet short of the fence. Puig then singled Ryu home, but got caught in a rundown for the first out of the inning. After Hanley Ramirez walked to put runners at first and third, Adrian Gonzalez brought Gordon home on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0 in favor of the Dodgers.

Cahill was finally chased in the fifth inning after walking Gonzalez and Ethier consecutively to start the frame. Manager Kirk Gibson brought in reliever Josh Collmenter, but he too issued a walk to A.J. Ellis, loading the bases with no outs for left fielder Mike Baxter. Baxter grounded into a double play, but Gonzalez scored to make it 4-0. Juan Uribe followed up with a double to make it 5-0. Cahill’s final line: four innings pitched, five earned runs allowed on eight hits and four walks and a hit batsman, while recording only one strikeout.

Collmenter took the mound in the sixth inning, but the Dodgers continued to score. Leading off, Gordon bunted in front of catcher Miguel Montero, who made an error attempting to throw out Gordon, who scampered to second base. Puig doubled to left to drive in Gordon. Finally, Collmenter walked Hanley Ramirez before Gibson took him out for lefty Joe Thatcher. Thatcher stopped the bleeding, striking out Adrian Gonzalez. Puig was thrown out trying to advance on a wild pitch, then Ethier lined out to end the frame.

Meanwhile, Ryu was nearly unhittable on the mound. The Diamondbacks were only able to scrape together two singles and a walk over five innings. The lefty struck out five in the effort.

Dodgers reliever Chris Withrow took over in the sixth inning, but immediately got into trouble, issuing a walk to Aaron Hill and a single to Paul Goldschmidt to put runners on first and second with no outs. Martin Prado killed the momentum, however, grounding into a 6-3 double play. Montero grounded out to end the inning.

The Dodgers kept the pressure on, scoring their seventh on the seventh when Dee Gordon hit a sacrifice fly to center with the bases loaded. In the bottom half, Paco Rodriguez and Jamey Wright teamed up to load the bases, but narrowly escaped with the shutout intact as Hill lined out to right field to end the inning. Wright stayed in for the eighth, got into trouble, and couldn’t escape. A one-out walk followed by two consecutive singles by Montero and Mark Trumbo led to the D-Backs’ first run. Lefty J.P. Howell came in and extinguished the fire.

The Dodgers asked Jose Dominguez to close out a 7-1 ballgame but the young right-hander got himself into trouble with back-to-back walks of A.J. Pollock and Hill. Paul Goldschmidt then hit a fly ball to deep right-center that would have been out of most MLB parks, but Ethier caught it on the track with but a couple feet to spare. Pollock advanced to third. With Prado at the plate, Hill took second base on defensive indifference. Prado knocked both runners in with a single to right-center, chasing Dominguez from the game with a 7-3 score. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly brought in lefty Paul Maholm, who struck out Montero. Don Mattingly then made his seventh and final pitching change of the night, bringing in Kenley Jansen, who immediately served up a two-run home run to Trumbo to make it 7-5. Jansen struck out Gerardo Parra at long last to seal the deal.

Dee Gordon finished 3-for-4 with a double, walk, and a hit-by-pitch, along with an RBI and a run scored.

Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-2 with two walks. In the fifth inning, Gonzalez stole second base off of Cahill and advanced to third on Montero’s throwing error. It’s just the sixth stolen base of his career, but he’s five-for-five in stolen base attempts since the start of 2010.

After a tough 0-for-5 game in the opener, Yasiel Puig went 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI, and a run scored.

Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero made his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth, but D-Backs closer Addison Reed struck him out.

Juan Uribe went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

Paul Goldschmidt singled twice in five at-bats.

Mark Trumbo went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI.

Overall, the game featured 12 runs, 21 hits, 16 walks, and four errors. The two teams combined to use 14 pitchers.

The Dodgers will fly back home and resume spring training with three games against the Angels before traveling to San Diego to open up the regular season in the United States on the 30th.  The Diamondbacks will play three against the Cubs as well as split-squad games against the Reds and Indians before their home opener against the Giants on the 31st.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.