The Dodgers held serve against the woebegone and soon-to-be-gone-from Oakland Athletics this week, completing a three-game sweep of a team they should sweep with a 8-2 victory before a sold-out crowd of 52,624 in Chavez Ravine on Thursday night.
All wins are created equal in baseball. You don’t get extra points for beating a great team or a deduction for beating a weak one. But had the Dodgers (62-45) lost even one game in this series to a club with a major league-worst 30-80 record, it would have felt like a huge disappointment, a lost opportunity.
Julio Urías and a pesky offense spared them from any regrets, the left-hander giving up three hits, striking out five and walking one over five scoreless innings and the Dodgers stringing together six hits during a four-run sixth inning to turn a 2-1 cushion into a 6-1 lead.
Miguel Rojas drove in the Dodgers’ first two runs with RBI doubles in the second and third innings, and Zack Gelof pulled the A’s to within 2-1 with a 364-foot solo homer inside the left-field foul pole off reliever Emmet Sheehan in the sixth.
But Austin Barnes and Mookie Betts opened the bottom of the sixth with singles off reliever Lucas Erceg, Will Smith blooped a one-out RBI single to center for a 3-1 lead, Amed Rosario sliced a two-run double to right to make it 5-1, and David Peralta followed with a pinch-hit RBI single to right for a 6-1 lead.
Peralta was batting for third baseman Max Muncy, who was pulled because of a left-wrist contusion after being hit by a pitch in the fifth.
Tyler Soderstrom homered for the A’s in the eighth, but Freddie Freeman, who doubled twice in his first three at-bats to give him a major league-leading 40 doubles on the season, hit a solo homer to right, his 21st of the season, for a 7-2 lead. Chris Taylor added an RBI single in the inning to make it 8-2.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn’t expecting much length from Urías, who was pitching for the first time in nine days, his start pushed back because of a nail issue on his index finger that limited him to only one bullpen session between starts.
“Honestly, it could be three innings, it could be five innings,” Roberts said before the game. “I really can’t see it being anything north of that given what he’s done recently.”
So it was not surprising when Urías was pulled despite throwing only 68 pitches. His average fastball velocity of 91.5 mph was down from his 92.8-mph season average, and he induced only three swinging strikes.
Sheehan, bumped from the rotation to the bullpen, covered the final four innings, allowing the Dodgers to travel to San Diego for a four-game series with a fresh bullpen.
There were two developments before Thursday’s game that could have huge ramifications for the Dodgers’ injury ravaged rotation in August and September.
Clayton Kershaw, out since late-June because of a shoulder injury, threw to hitters in a four-inning simulated game of about 60 pitches and is in line to start for the Dodgers next week, Roberts said.
And Walker Buehler, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery last August, is “on the verge” of beginning a minor league rehabilitation assignment that should put the hard-throwing right-hander in line to return in early September.
“Verge is still vague,” Roberts said, “but certainly, if we’re talking about an early September return, August has to be in play [for a rehab stint].”
Buehler, 29, last pitched for the Dodgers on June 10, 2022. He went 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA in 33 starts in 2021, his last full season, and is 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 15 career playoff starts, with 101 strikeouts and 31 walks in 79 ⅔ innings.
Most starters returning from surgery need to build up enough arm strength to throw at least five innings before returning. But the Dodgers could take advantage of September’s expanded rosters to piggyback another starter behind Buehler, allowing Buehler to return with a three-inning start.
“I think the best-case scenario is for him to be a starter, and to use his time through rehab, through [his starts here] as a continued buildup,” Roberts said. “So that’s kind of the thought process.”
Kershaw was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts when he left a June 27 game at Colorado because of what he called a “cranky” shoulder. His rehab has progressed much slower than he expected, but Roberts said his stuff was “considerably better” on Thursday than it was in his three-inning simulated game last weekend.
Roberts couldn’t say that whatever was ailing Kershaw is completely behind the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner.
“I think we’re at the stage where it’s not perfect, but it’s to a place where we feel he can pitch in a major league game,” Roberts said. “I understand that he doesn’t have pain, which is important. It’s not perfect, but he’s still Clayton, and he still wants to get out there and help his team win baseball games. He’s gonna find a way.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports