It was a fitting ending for a hard-fought series between the NL West front-runners. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks squared off for the final game of a four-game series.  Ultimately, Matt Kemp would deliver in the clutch (again), besting Arizona’s Archie Bradley for the 2nd time in as many days – making the 3 – 2 victory another worthy candidate for “win of the year.”

The Pitching

Walker Buehler added another fantastic start to his Rookie Of the Year campaign.  Unfazed by the spotlight of this critical game, Buehler tossed 6 innings of 2 hit, 1ER baseball against the potent Diamondbacks lineup.  He struck out a season-high 9 batters, matching the mark he set two weeks ago in St. Louis.  The fastball was perhaps as lively as we’ve seen this season, and his ability to put in on the corners or elevate it meant opposing hitters had little chance of catching up.

After allowing a single to Goldschmidt and a walk to Descalso, Buehler was lifted in the top of the 7th, handing it over to the newly acquired Ryan Madson.  Goldschmidt subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly that warranted a replay and “overturned” call, despite a fantastic relay between Cody Bellinger and Grandal.

The combination of Ferguson and Jansen was used to cover the 8th and 9th innings, with the only real mistake coming in the form of 9th inning home run by Daniel Descalso, which put the Diamondbacks up 2 – 1.  Ferguson was immediately lifted following the disheartening shot, but Jansen managed to shut the door without further damage.

The Offense

It took nearly 5 innings for the Dodgers offense to show a pulse – perhaps the bats were hungover from the late-innings heroics of the previous night. But in the bottom of the 5th, Muncy opened the scoring with a bang, blasting his 31st home run of the season to put the Dodgers up 1 – 0.

The Dodgers had another key scoring opportunity in the 6th, but with 2 men and no outs Arizona’s pitching struck out Dozier, Grandal, and Muncy in order.

After giving up the lead in the 9th, it was going to take another heroic effort to maintain their grasp on 1st place – Matt Kemp was ready to rise to the occasion again.

The bottom of the 9th started with an Alex Verdugo walk, who pinch-hit in Chris Taylor’s spot just a day after being called up with the September roster expansions.  Muncy managed to do the same, and they were promptly moved over by a Kiké Hernandez sacrifice bunt.

Boxberger, the Arizona closer, was obviously struggling to command the ball.  With Matt Kemp up, Boxberger was lifted for flame-thrower Archie Bradley, and for the 2nd night in a row the two would face off with the game on the line.  On the 1st pitch of the at-bat, Kemp got ahold of a 95 mph fastball and sent a deep fly ball off the center-field wall.  Verdugo and pitch runner Tim Locastro scored to seal the 3 – 2 walk-off win and series victory.

Final Thoughts

The Dodgers have now won 8 of their last 9 games, and have surged to the top of the NL West.  This was a crucial series to win, and both teams played crisp, high-intensity baseball but ultimately the fate of the series was determined by a few key pitches – 2 of them to Matt Kemp.

The starting pitching has continued to be fantastic, the relief pitching has taken a solid leap forward and key arms have recently joined the club, and despite the fact that the offense has still been inconsistent they managed to make good use of key at-bats in the series.

Alex Wood will look to keep the momentum going against Cy-Young favorite Jacob deGrom, as the Dodgers start a 3-game series with the reeling Mets.  I expect will see a variety of lineups from Dave Roberts, who will be looking to evaluate what the September call-ups can add during this important stretch.  Following the Mets series, the Dodgers will head to Colorado for another key NL West match up with the Rockies.

Dodgers Prospect Report: Cody Thomas