Four walks, a knock and a balk. These were the primary ingredients in the witches brew of a cocktail that the Dodgers stirred together for a wacky eighth-inning rally that capped an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
A crowd of 49,281 at Chavez Ravine, their voices hoarse from booing Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, the two holdovers from Houston’s 2017 electronic sign-stealing team, cranked up the volume in the final three innings, when the Dodgers overcame a 7-3 deficit to beat the defending World Series champions for their fourth straight win.
“This tells you guys what kind of team we are,” said Dodgers outfielder David Peralta, whose pinch-hit, two-run home run pulled the Dodgers to within 7-5 in the seventh. “We’re fighting all the way to the end. We never give up.”
Peralta’s clutch homer to right field off reliever Phil Maton, his team’s first hit since the first inning, lit the fuse for the comeback, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saying it “breathed life into us, because we were anemic for quite some time,” but it was the Astros who imploded in the eighth.
Houston right-hander Bryan Abreu walked Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and J.D. Martinez to open the inning, Smith fighting back from an 0-and-2 count to win a nine-pitch duel and Martinez spitting at a full-count breaking ball just off the plate.
James Outman then lined an RBI double to right field that got stuck in the padding on the wall to tie the score 7-7 and put runners on second and third with one out.
Houston manager Dusty Baker summoned setup man Ryne Stanek, who struck out Peralta for the second out. But as he prepared to throw a full-count pitch to Miguel Rojas, second-base umpire Junior Valentine ruled Stanek balked, allowing pinch-runner Jonny DeLuca to jog homefor the winning run.
“He said I moved my [right] leg, which is pretty obvious because I stepped off the mound,” Stanek said. “He said I moved my knee, which, as you’re standing, you have to move to step off the rubber. So I thought that was an interesting reason, especially in a situation like that, where a balk is intentionally trying to deceive the runner.
“At what point was I trying to deceive a runner? I hadn’t even come set yet. I was not even in the process of coming set. I was just stepping backward. So yeah, I just don’t see how you can make that call right there.”
Neither Stanek nor Baker put up much of an argument after the call, but after Stanek walked Rojas and struck out Michael Busch to end the inning, he fumed at Valentine as the umpire retreated toward center field, earning an ejection before storming back to the dugout. Baker was ejected as well.
“Junior called it, and then he walks away,” Baker said. “Then [first base umpire Quinn Wolcott] told me, ‘Don’t go out there.’ I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I needed some kind of explanation because Stanek was going ballistic.’ Boy, that’s a tough way to lose.”
Roberts, of course, thought Valentine got the call right.
“It was a balk,” Roberts said. “Obviously in a game like that, you don’t want it to be the deciding run, but they got the call right. I think Stanek was looking at the pitch clock, maybe trying to step off and call timeout, and his cleat got stuck, and his right move. It was a balk by the letter of the law, so we’ll take it.”
The Dodgers comeback took Bobby Miller off the hook after the rookie right-hander suffered through his second straight shaky start, giving up six runs and 10 hits in four innings and getting rocked for five runs and five hits in the fifth, Bregman following Altuve’s bunt single with a grand slam to left field.
Miller has been pounded for 13 earned runs and 17 hits in nine innings of his last two starts but has been pounded for 13 earned runs and 17 hits in nine innings of his last two starts against San Francisco and Houston.
“You’ve got to limit damage and continue to make good pitches, and you can see that inning where his tempo sped up,” Roberts said of Miller. “He just kind of forgot about his secondary pitches, and they were putting the ball in play.”
The Dodgers staked Miller to a 3-0 lead on Smith’s solo homer and Heyward’s two-run homer off Astros starter Ronel Blanco in the first. Blanco then hit the mute button on the Dodgers offense, retiring 15 of the 16 batters through the sixth inning.
Houston trimmed the deficit to 3-1 in the third and broke out for five runs in the fifth to take a 6-3 lead. A streak of 18⅓ consecutive scoreless innings by the Dodgers bullpen ended when Ryan Brasier gave up a run in the sixth, but Phil Bickford threw two hitless innings with four strikeouts and Evan Phillips threw a scoreless ninth for his 10th save.
There was only one hit in the decisive eighth inning for the Dodgers, but plenty of great “team at-bats” in the eyes of Rojas.
“Kudos to the guys fighting for every pitch,” Rojas said. “The whole team taking unselfish at-bats, not trying to be the hero, taking their walks.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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