May 24, 2024

It’s been evident for weeks that the Dodgers would be running out the clock over the last month of the season.

On Saturday, that exercise turned literal in a rain-delayed, extra-inning, seven-hour marathon against the Washington Nationals.

In what felt like ages after the 4:05 p.m. first pitch at Nationals Park, the teams finally reached a resolution shortly before midnight, when a wild pitch by Dodgers reliever Gus Varland scored the winning run for the Nationals in an 11-inning, 7-6 walk-off victory.

The loss kept the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the National League West at nine games. It also snapped their two-game winning streak, dropping them to 3-6 in their last nine games.

The game’s most important moments, however, came well before the result was decided — starting with the Dodgers’ two most important rookies facing tests.

Starting pitcher Bobby Miller was put through the ringer first. After waiting out the extended delay — one the 24-year-old flatly acknowledged “wasn’t very fun” — Miller cruised through four innings before running into trouble.

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the right-hander put himself in a jam, walking the leadoff batter and plunking another in what became a two-run rally for the Nationals.

Then, in the seventh, he ended his start with a dud, issuing a two-out walk to leadoff man C.J. Abrams before serving up a two-run homer to Lane Thomas.

“There was a lot of good, but I think the bad outweighed the good,” said Miller, whose ERA rose to 3.98 despite striking out eight in his seven-inning, five-run performance. “Just a couple really bad pitches.”

Manager Dave Roberts thought Miller’s emotions might have gotten the better of him at times, noting he didn’t brush off close ball-strike calls as well as he had during his recent emergence in the starting rotation.

“I don’t know the reason behind that,” Roberts said. “But I do think that there were some calls that he didn’t get that I thought should’ve went his way. That can’t affect performance.”

James Outman offered a more promising display.

After Max Muncy trimmed a 5-2 deficit to one with a home run in the eighth, Outman helped the Dodgers get level in the ninth. With one out, he battled through an 11-pitch at-bat to draw a walk. Then he stole second, advanced to third on a bad throw and scored on a single by Kolten Wong — ensuring an already long day would stretch deeper into a damp D.C. night.

“James has passed a lot of tests,” Roberts said. “He’s certainly built our trust in all spots.”

It’s the same thing Miller is trying to do, especially as his potential October role continues to grow in the wake of the Dodgers’ recent pitching problems.

“It’s hard to simulate what he’s going to be going through,” Roberts said, confirming it was part of the reason he let Miller face the top of the Nationals lineup for the fourth time in the seventh. “These are good experiences, opportunities for him to kind of see how he responds.”

In the meantime, the Dodgers — who briefly led in the 10th on a Kiké Hernández single, before giving up runs in each of the extra innings — simply are trying to get to October healthy and rested.

This weekend’s rainy weather, which is expected to continue Sunday, isn’t helping them get back on a roll.

“It’s gonna be a lot of what we saw today,” Roberts predicted of Sunday’s forecast. “It’s gonna be wet. So I don’t know if we’re gonna be on time. I don’t know if there’s gonna be intermittent rain. But we’ll be ready to play when they tell us to.”

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