At some point, desperation and creativity look the same. In the 10th inning on Thursday, Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling climbed the dugout steps and jogged to third base. The Dodgers had already used closer Kenley Jansen to preserve a tied game. Now they had run out of position players. Stripling was needed as a pinch runner.
Stripling was not required to use the speed he demonstrated as a schoolboy wide receiver in Texas. He scored easily on a go-ahead single by outfielder Andrew Toles, who sparked a four-run rally in this 5-1 victory. The final score belied the agony of the afternoon, in which the Dodgers offense lay dormant until the last inning.
After Toles’ hit, Chase Utley scored from third base on a pop-up in foul territory. Justin Turner roped an RBI single. Chris Taylor capped the rally with a bases-loaded walk. The late deluge allowed the Dodgers (11-12) to split this four-game series at AT&T Park and salvage a 3-4 record on this week-long road trip.
A wayward pickoff attempt in the sixth inning spoiled an otherwise tidy 2017 debut for Julio Urias. He limited the Giants to one run in 5 2/3 innings, though his pickoff error led to San Francisco tying the game.
The arrival of Urias bloated the team’s rotation to six pitchers. After Alex Wood tossed six innings of one-hit baseball on Wednesday, Manager Dave Roberts indicated Wood (1-0, 2.29 ERA) will start again next week. Wood could even remain in the rotation after Rich Hill comes off the disabled list, with Hill nursing his blistered middle finger in the bullpen.
With Urias and Wood in the fold, pressure is building on Kenta Maeda, who starts on Friday against Philadelphia. The team pondered skipping Maeda (1-2, 8.05 ERA) after he permitted four homers against Arizona over the weekend. Roberts did not announce that Maeda would be pitching for his spot on Friday, but he allowed himself a smile when he heard the question.
“Kenta is here for the long haul,” Roberts said, adding “This is a situation where I think Kenta is really focused. He wants to pitch well. We want him to pitch well. After [Friday], we will look at things, and see what’s best for Kenta, what’s best for all of us.”
Urias inherited a one-run lead on Thursday. San Francisco started Matt Moore, who entered the game with a 5.87 earned-run average and also happens to pitch with his left hand. He effectively rendered the Dodgers’ already unreliable lineup a non-entity. The only threats to Moore were Seager and Turner. Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday in the first inning in his own enviable fashion.
Moore started the at-bat with a curveball and a cutter. Both pitches nipped below Seager’s knees. He swung at both and missed. He did not miss the third pitch, a pitiable fastball. Seager boomed his fifth home run of the month.
Urias protected the lead with care. He dissected the Giants during the first five innings, limiting his opponents to three singles and a walk. Urias kept the ball on the ground and avoided hard contact. His teammates turned a pair of double plays behind him.
The sixth inning was less smooth. Urias issued a one-out walk to outfielder Brandon Belt. Belt stole zero bases in 2016. He was not a threat to run. Urias still tried to flash his vaunted pickoff move, a legitimate weapon that backfired against Belt. Urias bounced a throw past first baseman Scott Van Slyke. As Van Slyke searched for the ball near the bullpen mounds along the right-field line, Belt raced to third base.
Urias struck out shortstop Eduardo Nunez to approach an escape. The Dodgers elected to intentionally walk catcher Buster Posey. Roberts allowed Urias to face Christian Arroyo, a right-handed batter and the finest prospect on the Giants heading into 2017. Arroyo lined a curveball back up the middle. Urias stuck out his glove, but could not snatch the ball, a game-tying single.