An offense that mustered only two hits for eight innings and trailed by a run for most of the game came to life in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday night, David Peralta delivering a clutch two-out, two-run, pinch-hit single to right field to lift the Dodgers to a dramatic 2-1 walk-off win over the Chicago Cubs.
A Jackie Robinson Day crowd of 52,275 at Chavez Ravine saw three Cubs pitchers — starters Jameson Taillon and relievers Mark Leiter Jr. and Keegan Thompson — stifle the Dodgers for eight innings and Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger rob them of a potential two-run homer in the second.
Bellinger scooted back to the warning track, timed his jump perfectly and made a leaping catch above the center-field wall to snag Jason Heyward’s drive, eliciting boos from a crowd that adored Bellinger when he played for the Dodgers from 2017 to 2022.
But the Dodgers would not be denied in the ninth inning thanks to a rally sparked by rookies James Outman — who lined a one-out single to right-center field off Cubs closer Michael Fulmer, the Dodgers’ first hit since the second inning — and Miguel Vargas, who doubled to left field to put runners on second and third.
Fulmer, with the infield in, struck out Heyward with a nasty 92-mph cut-fastball for the second out, but Peralta grounded Fulmer’s first pitch into right field for a single, and Vargas barely beat Seiya Suzuki’s throw home with a headfirst dive into the plate, the Dodgers swarming the field to mob Peralta and pandemonium filling the stadium.
Reliever Shelby Miller threw a scoreless ninth to earn the win, but left-hander Caleb Ferguson did the heavy lifting, replacing Yency Almonte with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and striking out No. 3 batter Ian Happ and cleanup man Suzuki with cut-fastballs.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a hunch that Michael Grove would rebound from a brutal start to the season in which the right-hander, his energy sapped by the lingering effects of strep throat, gave up 12 earned runs and 14 hits in 7⅓ innings of two games for a 14.73 ERA.
“This is actually his first start where he’s been completely healthy,” Roberts said before the game. “Physically, strength wise, I expect Michael to pitch well.”
The rookie did, giving up one run and two hits in 5⅔ innings, striking out six and walking two, his only mistake a 95-mph up-and-over-the-plate fastball to Patrick Wisdom, who lined it over the center-field wall for a solo homer and a 1-0 Cubs lead in the fifth inning.
Grove effectively mixed a 85.4-mph slider, 94.5-mph fastball and 78.1-mph curve in his 79-pitch start and got some help from Heyward, who made a nice leaping catch of Nico Hoener’s game-opening drive to the wall.
But Cubs right-hander Taillon was up to the task, blanking the Dodgers on two hits in five innings, striking out seven and walking two, and relievers Leiter and Thompson added three scoreless innings.
The Dodgers began the day with what has become a tradition, Roberts gathering the team in front of the Jackie Robinson statue in the center-field plaza to discuss the legacy of the Hall of Famer who broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
But for the first time in three years Roberts has spoken at the statue, he had some company. About half of the Cubs team, including manager David Ross and Bellinger, joined the Dodgers for the afternoon ceremony.
“I think it’s part of our responsibility,” Roberts said. “It’s not a big ask to get everyone out there, but to see the way the players embrace that, and to reflect on what Jackie did for not only our game, but civil rights, human rights, in general … it was great to get everyone together.”
After his speech, Roberts handed the microphone to Dodgers outfielder Jason Heyward, the 14-year veteran who spent the previous seven years with the Cubs before signing with the Dodgers before this season.
“This is my 14th Jackie Robinson Day as a major leaguer, and it never gets old,” Heyward said. “We all understand as players how hard this game is. It’s a grind. You give up a lot of things — time with family, time with friends — and you feel like an outcast at times. I could never stop imagining what Jackie had to go through on a daily basis.”
Heyward, 33, has always idolized Robinson, who was born in Cairo, Ga., and moved to Southern California, where he was a multi-sport star at Pasadena City College and UCLA. Heyward grew up in McDonough, Ga., and nearly went to UCLA before signing with the Atlanta Braves as a first-round pick in 2007.
“The first book I read as a child was ‘The Jackie Robinson Story,’ so I’ve learned a lot about his history,” said Heyward, who also addressed the crowd a few minutes before the game. “The more I read, the more it made things feel normal for me, as far as the [possibility of playing in the big leagues] being achievable.”
A review of Andre Jackson’s rough Friday night outing, in which the reliever was rocked for five runs and six hits — four of them homers — in the final two innings of an 8-2 loss to the Cubs, revealed that the right-hander “was tipping his pitches,” Roberts said.
The manager wouldn’t reveal Jackson’s tells but said they were things he’s done in the past.
“You’ve got to give credit to [the Cubs] for detecting that from Andre, and he didn’t make great pitches,” Roberts said. “But it’s certainly a lot easier when you know what’s coming.”