He cupped his ear to the Oracle Park crowd, urging the fans to raise the volume. He lifted his arms. He absorbed the disgust. He was in hostile territory, 61/3 innings into his first taste of the oldest baseball rivalry in the West, and he ended a 126-pitch appearance by completing his heel turn in a way that would’ve made Tommy Lasorda crack a smile from ear to ear.
“They’re going to hate me anyway,” Bauer said. “Might as well lean into it.”
Bauer brashly exited the game with a one-run lead, having yielded an unearned run on his own throwing error and lost command at the end, before Nate Jones and Blake Treinen combined to close the Dodgers’ ninth win in 10 games to open a three-game series between the rivals.
Chris Taylor supplied all the offense for the Dodgers (27-18) with a two-run blast to straightaway center off former Dodger Alex Wood in the third inning. Wood was otherwise effective. The left-hander surrendered the two runs on eight hits, lowering his earned-run average to 1.93 in seven starts this season.
Bauer was better if less efficient. His 126 pitches were a season high and one short of matching his career high. He gave up two hits — an infield single against the shift from Alex Dickerson and a bloop double from Brandon Belt that had an expected batting average of .010. He recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts, his fourth double-digit total of the season. But he issued four walks and his throwing error with two outs in the sixth inning led to the Giants’ only run, ultimately forcing him to throw an extra six pitches to secure the final out when the Dodgers needed him to cover as many innings as possible.
The Dodgers purposely orchestrated a bullpen game Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, pushing Bauer back to Friday to counter the first-place Giants (28-17) on extra rest. The Dodgers used seven relievers in Thursday’s win. That left them with three available relievers Friday. They added a fourth before the game when Jones, a veteran right-hander signed to a minor-league contract last week, was called up.
The decision to opt for a bullpen game ahead of Bauer was calculated. The Dodgers trust him to pitch deep into games. He relishes the challenge. He requests it. And on Friday they needed him to pitch deep into the game.
“Certainly, Trevor’s a guy that I feel we can push a little bit more and he does that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “A lot of his value is certainly putting up zeroes and pitching well but also just the ability to log a lot of innings.”
Bauer has pitched at least six innings in nine of his 10 starts. His 61/3 innings Friday, however, didn’t come easy thanks in part to a call against him in the fourth inning.
The pitch, a 96-mph fastball, caught a sliver of the virtual strike zone visible only to people watching on television, but Bauer knew it was a strike from the mound so he marched off the mound believing he had struck out Evan Longoria to end the inning.
Plate umpire Chris Guccione disagreed and called it ball one. Bauer glared at him in disbelief and verbally expressed his disapproval before returning to the mound. It took another 10 pitches, after losing control and walking Longoria, before he finally secured the third out.
“I don’t think you can execute a better pitch than that. I know it was a strike, Will knew it was a strike,” Bauer said, referring to catcher Will Smith. “I think everybody but the home-plate umpire knew it was a strike.”
Those extra pitches might’ve cost Bauer the opportunity to complete seven innings. But it didn’t cost the Dodgers a win. Bauer convinced Roberts to let him start the seventh before Jones relieved him and posted two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings in his Dodgers debut. Treinen followed with a 1-2-3 ninth inning and the Dodgers won again behind their hate-loving villain.
“Fans wanted to boo me,” Bauer said, “so I wanted them to turn the volume up.”
Outfielder Luke Raley was optioned to make room on the active roster for Jones. Infielder Travis Blankenhorn was designated for assignment to create a spot on the 40-man roster. … Cody Bellinger (fibula) and Zach McKinstry (oblique) began rehab assignments Friday with triple-A Oklahoma City and played five innings in the field. Bellinger started in center field. He went one for four with an RBI single. McKinstry started in left field. He went 0 for two with two walks and two runs scored.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.