Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Holding some momentum from Clayton Kershaw working out of a jam and stringing together a rally to take a 2-0 lead, the Los Angeles Dodgers turned to Caleb Ferguson to face the top of the Los Angeles Angels lineup in the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday night.
Ferguson had been among the several relief pitchers to struggle of late, and awaiting him in the high-leverage situation were Taylor Ward, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Brusdar Graterol warmed up as the inning began, and the Dodgers wound up turning to Evan Phillips for the save in the ninth.
Given the three-batter minimum and handedness of Ward and Trout, coupled with Phillips being the Dodgers’ fireman and most trusted option out of their bullpen, calling on Ferguson was a curious decision.
“Just kind of digging in on those guys, they’re great hitters, but I think in this moment in time, left-handers are having a little bit of success,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained after the shutout win.
“And it’s nice when you can go to a left-hander named Caleb Ferguson and feel good about that. Sometimes you’ve got to kind of look at things and be able to make a decision with some information. Caleb made us all look good.”
Heading into the opener of the Freeway Series, Ward was batting .200/.263/.333 with two doubles, two RBI and a 54 wRC+ over the past two weeks against left-handed pitching.
Ohtani hit .316/.458/.842 with one double, three home runs, six RBI, five walks and a 239 wRC+ during that same span.
Trout batted .133/.278/.133 with three RBI, three walks and a 28 wRC+ against southpaws over the two-week stretch.
Ferguson retired the side in order, complete with striking out Ohtani and Trout. He appeared to have benefitted from a borderline pitch to Trout getting called for strike three rather than being ruled ball four.
Dave Roberts sees Caleb Ferguson improving
Since struggling in an opener role against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 11, Ferguson has now pitched a combined four scoreless innings over his last four appearances. He didn’t allow a hit over that stretch and has five strikeouts.
“It was great. I think as we’ve seen him pitch in leverage and late innings, I think he’s understanding the inning, the spot, part of the lineup, there’s a natural adrenaline that’s already happening,” Roberts said of Ferguson’s strong performance against the Angels.
“So for me, the last few outings, he’s managed his emotions. The strike throwing, consistency of the delivery, all that has echoed that. It’s a good feeling when you can run him out there any point in time and like your chances.”
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