Dodgers are not allowed to position a player to pitch against Mets in the ninth inning

LOS ANGELES — After the Dodgers were five runs down en route to the ninth inning Saturday night, manager Dave Roberts sent positional player Zach McKinstry to the mound at Dodger Stadium. At least he tried.

Roberts had used six pitchers in the game – which ended in a 4-9 loss – and was hoping to salvage the rest of his bullpen for Sunday afternoon’s final of the four-game series.

The umpiring crew, led by Crew Chief CB Bucknor, intervened. After much discussion, Bucknor announced that the score difference must be at least six runs in order for a position player to pitch extra innings. The rule was introduced ahead of the 2020 season but was suspended for two years before being reinstated for ’22.

Mets manager Buck Showalter soon came out of the dugout. Roberts suggested the umpires check with the league offices in New York for confirmation.

“They wanted clarification on the rules because they didn’t feel the way the rules were communicated to them was correct,” Showalter said.

It was a change Roberts was unaware of.

“It’s an oversight on my part,” Roberts said. “As soon as it was brought to it [the umpires’] Watch out, they were there too.”

This delayed the game by 11 minutes.

“I hope we don’t see it again,” Showalter said.

With no pitchers ready in the Los Angeles bullpen, Evan Phillips had time to warm up before entering.

Despite the five-run difference and the Dodgers leading the MLB in runs scored, Roberts was still ready to fly the proverbial white flag in hopes he could improve the team’s chances for Sunday.

“It’s more about looking at our likelihood of winning that game, to save it, to win the series,” Roberts said. “I’m still trying to manage to win a streak and not just keep the game tight.”

Walker Buehler was the Dodgers’ first pitcher to take the mound Saturday, but not for long. By his standards, it’s been a rough time lately. Buehler’s performance against the Mets didn’t change that, as he only went 2 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his six-year big league career.

Buehler allowed five earned runs and five hits, including two homers — the second came from Pete Alonso on Buehler’s 65th and final pitch of the night. He threw 29 pitches during a third inning in which the Mets scored four runs after the Dodgers took a 4-1 lead in the previous half inning.

“I wasn’t biased in a positive direction,” Buehler said. “Well obviously I get it. Putting your team in a hole after scoring four runs for me stinks. It’s more the same. Frustrating.”

The Mets’ nine-run performance came after the Dodgers pitchers held them on one run and eight hits in the first two games of the series.

Buehler’s latest numbers are troubling compared to its stellar past. His xERA of 3.73 is the highest of his career, and his ERA – which was 1.96 on May 8 – is 3.84.

“It’s very atypical in terms of inconsistencies,” said Roberts. “We expect quality starts every time he goes out there. But the game is tough. These racquets are good on the other side.”

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