Dodgers grind through tough spell as Andre Jackson shines on debut
The L.A Dodgers aren’t having that great of a time with their schedule at the moment and, having played Sunday Night Baseball against the New York Mets, they left NY around 1:30 am and didn’t make it back home until 5:00 am. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they had to play the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
The team had to forego practice, with the players treated to a light day due to the short space of time between games. There was no on-field batting practice, with most of the preparation done inside of the clubhouse so players could get more time to rest.
The Dodgers, a Major League-best at 43-17 and the favorites for the World Series as far as MLB picks and predictions are concerned, dug deep and would do just enough to beat the Pirates, with Milly McKinney and Max Muncy hitting solo homers to help spur on the 2-1 victory.
“It was a grind getting going today, McKinney admitted. “Everybody got up and fought hard. It’s a testament to the team and the diligence and how focused everybody is. Everyone was just hoping to run on fumes during the game and get some rest tonight. Glad we were able to pull that one out.”
The hits from Muncy and McKinney did get the job done in terms of getting the crowd behind the team but it was the Dodgers’ No.22 prospect Andre Jackson who proved to be the key man on the night.
The Dodgers were made to depend on the right-hander given their numerous injuries in the starting rotation and he was leaned on heavily, though he had only made two Triple-A appearances all season. Despite the lack of action, Jackson was everything the team needed him to be against Pittsburgh.
“I thought he was fantastic,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought he kept his composure really well. So proud of him for earning this opportunity. For him to pitch well, for us to win, it was just a great night for all.”
Jackson, who had nearly 50 family members and friends watching on from the stands, relieved left-hander Justin Bruihl and tossed four scoreless innings. He got nine swing-and-misses on the way to five strikeouts. He put together an impressive changeup and would later joke he didn’t want to give his secret away.
“I don’t want to give away my secret,” he said. “But I think everybody knows my changeup is my bailout pitch. Whenever I need to throw a strike or make the big pitch, it’s kind of what I go to. I didn’t have the greatest command today, but I was able to get back in the zone with the changeup and throw fastballs when I needed to.”
Jackson did admit struggling with his command and walked four against the Pirates but pointed out he didn’t allow the moment to get too big for him and was able to work around the walks to keep the opposition from scoring. He created history on his debut, having become the first player in the modern era to register five or more strikeouts, four or more walks, and zero runs allowed in a relief appearance.
“I definitely had to dog up and make some pitches there,” he remarked. “That’s kind of when it really hit me that this is real,” Jackson said. “I’m glad I escaped with some clean innings, but I think that actually helps boost some confidence. I’d rather have it that way for the first outing — well, I guess throwing a no-no would be cool — but it gives you the confidence that you know you can make pitches in the big leagues in big situations.”
The debut was quite telling. Only three weeks ago, Jackson was playing in Double-A. Fast-forward to this week and, here he is pulling the Dodgers back from falling into a five-game deficit in their division. The team is waiting patiently as Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías, and Danny Duffy plot their way back from injury but there’s even more reason to be patient now as Jackson appears to be the real deal.
“That was awesome. That was everything I wanted it to be and more,” Jackson said. “But that last pitch I threw I really felt the energy of the crowd and it was really, really awesome. I don’t even have the words.
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