LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers’ usually rock-solid bullpen was anything but in Game 2 of the World Series.
Kenley Jansen allowed a tying homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth — his first ever blown save in the playoffs. Josh Fields gave up long balls to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the 10th. Then Brandon McCarthy surrendered the decisive blow, a two-run shot by George Springer in the 11th.
All from a bullpen that had thrown 28 consecutive scoreless innings.
After that streak ended in the eighth, the once-dominant Dodgers bullpen gave up six runs in its final four innings, costing Los Angeles in a 7-6 loss in 11 innings to the Houston Astros that evened the World Series at 1-1.
Los Angeles hadn’t lost in 98 games this season when it led after the eighth inning. On Wednesday night, it just couldn’t stop baseball’s highest-scoring team from the regular season.
“Kenley’s the best in the game. He’s kind of got us spoiled and we expect him to be automatic,” outfielder Enrique Hernandez said. “But he’s human, and he made a mistake.”
Manager Dave Roberts had it lined up just as he wanted. Kenta Maeda replaced starter Rich Hill after 60 pitches to begin the fifth inning — Hill slammed his glove in the dugout after being told — and Maeda and left-hander Tony Watson combined to hand a 3-1 lead to the back of the bullpen.
“They’ve had the best bullpen in baseball this postseason and much of the season,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Doc showed it today, he’s going to go to the matchups as soon as he feels he’s got a little bit of an advantage.”
Roberts went to Ross Stripling to start the seventh, but pulled him after a four-pitch walk in favor of Brandon Morrow, who got through the seventh unscathed. Burning Stripling so early may have proved costly when the game went to extra innings, but Roberts had gambled Morrow and Jansen could close things out from there.
That’s where things went wrong.
The scoreless streak ended in the eighth. Morrow allowed a leadoff double to Alex Bregman, and that prompted Roberts to go to Jansen, hoping the All-Star closer could get his second career six-out postseason save — the first was against the Cubs in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series in 2016.
Jansen allowed Correa’s RBI single in the eighth, the first run surrendered by a Dodgers reliever since Game 2 of the Division Series. Still, Jansen took a 3-2 lead into the ninth.
“I’ll take Kenley any day of week with a one-run lead going into the ninth,” Roberts said. “He’s been virtually unhittable.”
Gonzalez homered to give Jansen his first blown save in 13 career postseason opportunities.
“One missed pitch, you got me,” Jansen said. “You can’t beat yourself up about that.”
Suddenly, Los Angeles was going to extra innings having already used the relievers who had pitched the club to the World Series.
The next inning, Roberts went to Fields, who had pitched just one inning the entire postseason. He gave up consecutive homers to Altuve and Correa leading off, then gave up a double to Yuli Gurriel before being pulled. Tony Cingrani cleaned up his mess, giving the Dodgers a chance to rally in the bottom of the inning and send it to the 11th.
That’s where McCarthy faltered. A starter making his first ever playoff appearance, McCarthy gave up a two-run drive to Springer for a 7-5 Astros lead. McCarthy got three outs after that.
“It took me a while to settle down and get into the flow of it; it was just a little too late,” McCarthy said. “I have to do a better job of being sharp when I come in.”
Roberts had been masterful in using his bullpen since a trade deadline overhaul that brought in lefties Cingrani and Watson. Morrow had been outstanding all season, and Maeda has thrived in October since moving from the rotation to the bullpen. And then of course, there’s Jansen, perhaps the best closer in the game.
It’s a crew Roberts is eager to go all-in with.
“It just doesn’t always go as planned,” he said.
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