PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers keep losing pitchers and winning games. The latest trick by their workaholic bullpen may have been their most impressive.
Spot starter Dennis Santana was scratched minutes before the first pitch on Thursday against Pittsburgh. It hardly mattered. Nine relievers managed to do just enough to hold off the Pirates in an 8-7 victory.
Barely 12 hours removed from a loss that forced manager Dave Roberts to use eight pitchers, the bullpen door in center field opened early and often for the Dodgers. It didn’t stop Los Angeles from winning for the 15th time in its last 20 games to move back to .500 (31-31).
“It’s one of those things where you just have to kind of ask guys to do more than they’ve been asked to do and stretch them more, and you try to navigate it the best you can and you understand you don’t have a whole lot of margin,” Roberts said.
Daniel Hudson pitched a scoreless first in his first start since 2015 after the 22-year-old Santana complained of right lat tightness during warmups.
Pedro Baez (3-3) picked up the win by getting six outs — the most by any of the pitchers Roberts summoned from the bullpen. Kenley Jansen worked around a pinch-hit homer by Francisco Cervelli in the ninth to collect his 15th save in 17 opportunities.
“The fact that Santana went down was just crazy for us,” Jansen said. “These last two games weren’t easy for us. We got a lot of innings and then today, we had to start since the first inning. It’s tough for us.”
Having Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger in the lineup helped take some of the pressure off. Pederson went deep twice and Bellinger hit his third home run in as many games for the Dodgers. Pederson led off the game with a solo blast off Jameson Taillon (3-5) and added a two-run shot in the eighth off Michael Feliz for his second multi-home run game in a week.
“Their lineup is deep, it’s tough,” Taillon said. “I thought I had really good stuff today. I thought I made a lot of good pitches and they were really zoned in.”
Bellinger finished 3 for 4, including a shot just over the wall in the sixth to give the Dodgers a three-run advantage, and Pederson’s two-run home run in the eighth gave Los Angeles just enough cushion. The first baseman entered the series in a 5-for-54 funk but has focused on trying to spray the ball around instead of pulling everything. The proof the new approach came in the seventh when he sent a curveball by Tyler Glasnow into the sun-splashed bleachers in left-center.
“If you can do that, then you’re a tough out,” Bellinger said. “They can’t shift you as much and that just creates more hits. So, I’ve been working hard just to try to be an all-around hitter and it’s been paying off. Hopefully I can keep it going.”
Taillon, coming off his first win in nearly two months, allowed three runs in five innings. Elias Diaz hit his fourth home run and drove in four for the Pirates, and Cervelli’s homer pushed his total to a career-high nine. Josh Harrison had two of Pittsburgh’s nine hits, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Pirates from losing their sixth consecutive series while dropping to .500 (31-31).
Corey Dickerson, who went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts, said facing a different arm every time up presented issues.
“I think that threw a lot of guys off,” Dickerson said.
The victory marked the 10th time in 13 games that Dodger relievers have worked at least four innings.
Those following Hudson included Baez — who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday but never made it to the airport after left-hander Tony Cingrani went on the disabled list early Thursday with pain in his left shoulder.
Baez even made the sixth plate appearance of his five-year career when he put down a sacrifice bunt in the third. Edward Paredes, recalled from Triple-A overnight, worked a third of an inning in his second appearance in the majors this year.
“They took on a heavy workload,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “They got out of here with a series win, which doesn’t leave a good taste.”
Dodgers: Roberts said Santana felt a twinge while trying to throw a slider. He will be re-evaluated on Friday. … Cingrani was placed on the 10-day disabled list and will undergo an MRI when the team returns to Los Angeles.
Pirates: SS Jordy Mercer went 1 for 4 and scored a run in his return to the lineup after missing the last two games with flu-like symptoms.
Dodgers: Begin an eight-game homestand on Friday when the Atlanta Braves visit. Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.74 ERA) faces Atlanta’s Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 4.83).
Pirates: Start a six-game road trip in Chicago on Friday against the Cubs. Chad Kuhl (4-3, 3.86) faces Mike Montgomery (1-1, 3.89) in the opener. The Cubs took three of four in Pittsburgh last week.