Dodgers use late-inning rally to beat Rockies and move within a game of Giants

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Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner, left, congratulates Max Muncy who crossed home plate following his two-run home run off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath in the 10th inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Max Muncy, right, is congratulated by Justin Turner after his two-run home run gave the Dodgers a 7-5 lead in the 10th inning Thursday against the Colorado Rockies. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

For 30 minutes Thursday afternoon, before the Dodgers roared back for a 7-5 win over the Colorado Rockies, their hopes of a ninth consecutive National League West title appeared dead.

They were flat, trailing the Rockies by two runs with six outs remaining at Coors Field, on their way to dropping two of three games to the inferior club for the second time in four weeks. The San Francisco Giants meanwhile were working more magic 1,000 miles away at Petco Park, taking a lead over the San Diego Padres on a pinch-hit, three-run home run.

It was scoreboard watching to the nth degree.

“A little bit of a seesaw,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

If the results held, the Dodgers would’ve fallen three games behind the Giants in the standings with nine games left. Catching them would’ve been nearly impossible. But the results didn’t hold.

The Dodgers (98-55) scratched a run in the eighth inning and another in the ninth when Trea Turner, with two outs, sneaked a groundball through the left side for a tying single.

Kenley Jansen held the Rockies (71-81) scoreless in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extras. With a designated runner at second base, Max Muncy launched the first pitch of the 10th inning over the wall in center field for a two-run home run.

The Giants and Padres were tied at 6-6 when Mookie Betts caught a sinking line drive to start the bottom of the 10th. Blake Treinen next walked Trevor Story on four pitches before C.J. Cron grounded into a double play to end the game.

An hour later, Padres catcher Victor Caratini delivered a winning infield single to down the Giants (99-54) in 10 innings, moving the Dodgers to within one game of first place.

“We know we're a great team,” Muncy said. “We know we can come back from any situation. We know we can win any game. But sometimes when you have a come-from-behind win like that, it reaffirms it and it gets it back in people's minds.”

Muncy released a fist pump as he rounded first base and the Dodgers’ dugout erupted when his homer landed over the wall. The swing tied a career high of 35 home runs for Muncy, whose immense second-half struggles have dropped him from the NL MVP race.

“He needed it a lot,” Roberts said.

The comeback rendered Max Scherzer’s worst start as a Dodger a footnote. The right-hander yielded five runs and six hits across five innings, matching the total number of earned runs he had given up in his first nine starts with Los Angeles. He struck out six, walked one and threw 102 pitches in his first outing in Colorado since 2016. At the plate, he struck out in both of his at-bats and hasn’t reached base this season in 61 plate appearances.

Dodgers pitcher David Price works against the Colorado Rockies.
Dodgers pitcher David Price works against the Colorado Rockies in the seventh inning in Denver. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Sam Hilliard snapped Scherzer’s streak of 38 innings without surrendering an earned run — a stretch that spanned five starts to Aug. 21 — with an RBI double in the second inning. Three batters later, Kyle Freeland, the opposing pitcher, lined a two-out, two-run single.

In the fifth inning, Raimel Tapia, a light-hitting outfielder with five home runs this season, smashed a cutter off the second deck’s façade in right for a go-ahead two-run home run.

Scherzer said he couldn’t get a good grip of the ball in the thin air. That made it difficult to land his curveball, a pitch he relied on during his historic run, for strikes.

“It just kind of got sideways for me,” Scherzer said. “I wasn't able to execute like I normally execute.”

Freeland’s single — the second two-run hit for a Rockies starting pitcher in two games — tied the score after the Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the inning.

AJ Pollock, in his first start since coming off the injured list, led off the inning with a double. Austin Barnes then slapped an RBI single and Gavin Lux, who made his first major league start in center field, lined a single before the two executed a double steal. Corey Seager plated both runners with a bloop single.

The Dodgers didn’t score again until the eighth when Pollock lined a two-out double to knock in Turner. The comeback seemed to end there, just short, when Lux struck out looking and Albert Pujols, pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot, grounded out against right-hander Carlos Estévez to start the ninth inning.

But Betts kept the Dodgers alive with a first-pitch single to right. Seager followed with a groundball that bounced off Estévez’s leg, allowing Seager to reach base. Estévez hobbled around the mound and threw some warm-up pitches before staying in the game.

He faced Turner, the All-Star undercard in the Dodgers’ blockbuster deadline trade with the Washington Nationals. He coolly poked a groundball just beyond a diving Story at shortstop for this third hit of the day, raising his batting average to .321, second best in the NL.

“We just had a good feeling about what was happening,” said Scherzer, who watched the comeback unfold in the clubhouse. “We saw the momentum. We felt good about Trea at the plate. I was telling the guys, ‘Trea loves hitting here. He's going to get it done.’ And, sure enough, he got it done.”

The swing kept the Dodgers’ alive long enough for Muncy to apply the finishing touches and breathe life back into their division title aspirations. They packed for Arizona with an eye on the game in San Diego, rooting for the Padres, heated rivals for most of the season, and boarded the plane still in the hunt.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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