By Jon Weisman
As this sentence was being written, the Dodgers and Orioles were tied, 4-4, in the ninth inning. At that moment, two things were certain:
If there were going to be a Dodger hero today, a fine young man carried off the field, it would be a hitter.
And some Dodger reliever would either be a goat, or lost in the shuffle.
So what happened?
In the Dodgers’ longest game since they played 17 innings at San Diego on May 22 — on a day that Chase Utley became the first Dodger to have six hits since Shawn Green’s memorable day in Milwaukee on May 23, 2002 — Jonathan Schoop hit a two-out, sinking line drive in the 14th inning that barely eluded Trayce Thompson’s glove, driving in two runs for a 6-4 Baltimore win.
Chris Hatcher, who had thrown 31 pitches the previous night, took the loss. He also had the burden of making the final out, with the bases loaded, long after the Dodgers ran out of pinch-hitters.
Painful as that is for Dodger fans to process, the Dodger bullpen deserves a collective bow. In the six games of this homestand — in the midst of what has really become a rebirth for the relief core — Dodger relievers have done the following.
The bullpen has averaged approximately five innings and 80 pitches per game for the past six games, yet had a 0.94 ERA on the homestand before the game-winning hit.
Dodger relievers are on pace to throw 524 innings this year, which believe it or not, would not be a record. In 2009, a National League Championship Series season, the Dodger bullpen racked up 553 innings.
Footnote: The Dodgers and Orioles combined to set a Dodger Stadium single-game strikeout record with 36. The previous Dodger Stadium strikeout record of 32 was originally set by the Padres and Dodgers in a 17-inning game June 27, 1989, and matched in an 18-inning Braves-Dodgers game August 3, 1996.
Also, Adam Liberatore, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning of relief, has made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances, tying the franchise record set by John Candelaria in 1991.