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Dodgers, seeking NLDS sweep, ponder closer role

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Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (35) is congratulated by A.J. Pollock (11) after his solo home run agains the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning in Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

DODGERS (2-0) AT PADRES (0-2)
9:08 p.m. ET; MLBN

One victory from earning their way into a fourth National League Championship Series in five years, the Los Angeles Dodgers will go a bit out of character by waiting to name a starting pitcher for Game 3 of the NL Division Series.

Manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday he would push his announcement to Thursday afternoon before his club faces the San Diego Padres in a potential Game 3 clincher in Arlington, Texas.

And Roberts might have a second announcement to make after closer Kenley Jansen gave up two runs in the ninth inning Wednesday, nearly blowing the Dodgers’ lead. Joe Kelly replaced Jansen and walked two to load the bases before getting the final out of Los Angeles’ 6-5 win.

Roberts already has said Jansen isn’t a lock for the ninth inning every time the Dodgers are in front.

“I know (Jansen) is disappointed as well, so I’ll keep thinking through it,” Roberts said after the Wednesday game, all but signaling a desire to go another route in the ninth inning.

Known for having a steady and formidable rotation, the Dodgers have started to embrace the idea of letting relief pitchers pass the baton from first pitch to final out. It became more of a necessity this year with right-hander Walker Buehler troubled by a blister issue all throughout September.

Roberts still could name left-hander Julio Urias or right-hander Tony Gonsolin as a starter Thursday, or he could have a reliever open the game.

He used right-hander Brusdar Graterol as an opener twice in the regular season, but Graterol pitched 1 1/3 innings Wednesday, although he did it in just seven pitches. And Graterol, with his 100 mph fastball, might be called upon now to spell Jansen as the Dodgers’ closer.

The Padres were one swing from winning in the ninth inning Wednesday. Instead of potentially going for a series lead Thursday, they are now trying to save their season.

Game 2 might have ended in defeat, but San Diego showed a willingness to fight to the end. Mitch Moreland and Trent Grisham had RBI hits to knock Jansen from the game and cut a three-run deficit to one run.

Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado then walked to load the bases against Kelly, but Eric Hosmer grounded out to end it.

Another heartbreaking moment for the Padres came in the seventh inning, when Cody Bellinger robbed Tatis of a two-run home run by reaching over the center field wall.

“To load them up there at the end was just great at-bat after great at-bat,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “Our guys just kept battling, and I’m just extremely proud of them for that. They have been doing it all year, and they still have some gas in the tank. They’re still going.”

Tingler will go with a bullpen game Thursday, opening with left-hander Adrian Morejon. The 21-year-old rookie started four times in his nine regular-season outings this year, but he never pitched more than three innings in any appearance. He went 2-2 with a 4.66 ERA in the regular season, then tossed a total of three shutout innings in two relief outings against the St. Louis Cardinals in the Padres’ first-round playoff series.

After Morejon, Tingler is likely to mix and match his arms. He used five pitchers Wednesday, but that was light compared to his recent bullpen usage. He has used nine pitchers three times already this postseason and has gone 2-1 while doing it.

“Like I said last series, whatever we’ve got, these guys are going to lay it all out there,” Tingler said.

–Field Level Media

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