Dahlberg Dominates in Dogs Downing of Milkmen
By Jack Ankony, The Chicago Dogs
After relentlessly challenging Milwaukee Milkmen hitters during each frame, Dogs starting pitcher Jake Dahlberg flushed his mind of the dominance that just took place.
For Dahlberg, staying in the moment and thinking of each inning as three batters to attack is what led to him becoming the third pitcher in Dogs history to throw a complete game on Wednesday. Dahlberg retired the side in seven out of nine innings, allowed two hits, zero walks and struck out 10 batters en route to a 5-0 win over Milwaukee.
After a tough 9-1 loss on Tuesday, Dahlberg said manager Butch Hobson held a meeting that got the Dogs back in the right direction mentally. Leading up to Wednesday’s contest, the Dogs had lost six out of their previous eight games but knew there was no time to waste against the division-leading Milkmen.
“To go out there after last night and say, ‘Hey, we can do the same thing to you,’ it felt really, really good,” Dogs catcher Ryan Lidge said.
Lidge has led the Dogs in batting average all season, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that he blasted his first home run. Lidge is sixth in the American Association with a .361 batting average and couldn’t help but give an extra fist pump as he rounded the bases.
“Jake [Dahlberg] was pitching his butt off at that point, and we just needed more runs for him,” Lidge said.
Lidge was on the receiving end of Dahlberg’s sterling silver performance on Wednesday, and hinted that outings like this might become more common for Dahlberg moving forward. Lidge described Dahlberg as a bulldog on the mound, which is represented by the aggression he portrays.
After being a starter for his entire career, Dahlberg asked to be a reliever at the beginning of the 2021 season because he thought it would give him a better chance to advance his career. Dahlberg was dominant in his bullpen role and has since transitioned back to a starter where he has worked to blend the mentality required in each position.
Dahlberg said he has trained his mind to not look too far ahead and never look back. He views each inning as an opportunity to compete.
“I got three guys. Here’s my best stuff. I’m challenging them all,” Dahlberg said. “I did that every inning. I didn’t look ahead, I didn’t think back, I just stayed in that moment and I trusted myself.”
Even after allowing his first hit in the fifth inning, Dahlberg didn’t dwell on wondering if he could have made a better pitch. Dahlberg views each at-bat statistically. If a hitter beats him in one at-bat, the numbers are still on his side as the next batter digs in.
Lidge said landing Dahlberg’s curveball against lefties was the biggest adjustment as the game moved along, and their communication was vital in between innings. Dahlberg likes to work at an up-tempo pace, so being on the same page to avoid shake offs on the mound helps keep Dahlberg effective.
And as he approached the seventh and eighth innings, he didn’t worry if he could make it to the ninth. He still kept the same mentality of challenging three batters an inning with his best pitches. Dahlberg views his job as being tasked with executing pitches and letting the rest take care of itself.
“That gives me confidence, too, knowing that I can challenge hitters because I’ve got guys behind me that are going to sell out and make a play,” Dahlberg said.
Stellar defensive plays from shortstop Johnny Adams and centerfielder Michael Crouse on Wednesday aided Dahlberg’s effort that he said is builds momentum moving forward.
But even after two dominant starts, Dahlberg said he still thinks pitching out of the bullpen might be the way to go. He often tells Hobson that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Dogs win, but deep down, he still loves to start games.
“If I earn the starting job, I’ll take it,” Dahlberg said. “My confidence is through the roof right now, and while being a bullpen guy might still be in my head, I’m fully committed to this.”
On Thursday, Dahlberg will be the top supporter in the dugout as the Dogs look to claim an important series win over Milwaukee. He said Wednesday’s win reminded the Dogs of the way they grinded out wins to begin the season and hopes that mentality continues moving forward.
Dalberg said shutting out a team like Milwaukee gives the Dogs all the confidence in the world, but confidence isn’t what the Dogs were lacking.
“To see that we can put it on somebody like that,” Dahlberg said. “Now we’ve got momentum going into tomorrow.”