Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips made really quick work of the first batter he faced Thursday night: a one-pitch strikeout.
How did that happen? Well, Phillips benefited from baseball’s official scoring rules, which include a lot of arcane things like one-pitch Ks.
Here’s the explanation:
Phillips was called upon with two outs in the first inning of Game 5 in the Dodgers-Braves NLCS, after Los Angeles opener Joe Kelly had to leave the game with shoulder stiffness. (UPDATE: Kelly suffered a season-ending biceps strain.) Kelly was removed in the midst of facing Atlanta’s Adam Duvall. The count was 2-2 when Kelly called over to the LA dugout for a trainer. Kelly left the game with the trainer soon after.
Kelly’s injury forced Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to call upon the right-handed Phillips, who took several minutes to warm up (check out the rule associated with that). When Phillips was finally ready, he was one pitch away from retiring Duvall. Phillips promptly threw a slider that Duvall swung through for Strike 3.
So how, exactly, was Phillips credited with the strikeout when Kelly got two strikes out Duvall? Baseball Rule 9.16(h)(3) lays it out clearly:
“If, when pitchers are changed (during an inning), the count is
2 balls, 2 strikes,
1 ball, 2 strikes,
1 ball, 1 strike,
1 ball, no strike,
no ball, 2 strikes,
no ball, 1 strike,
the Official Scorer shall charge that batter and the actions of that batter to the relief pitcher.”
So Phillips was credited with the K of Duvall despite throwing just one pitch.
He went on to retire Atlanta 1-2-3 with two more strikeouts — on just 14 pitches — in the second inning. And when the Dodgers took the lead in the bottom of the inning against Braves starter Max Fried, Phillips was suddenly in line to be credited with the win. (UPDATE: He was awarded the W after LA completed an 11-2 season-saving victory.) That’s another scoring rule for another time.