LOS ANGELES — During the Dodgers’ three-week slump, third baseman Justin Turner said that it felt as if the team would almost anticipate something to go wrong during games, especially during the late innings.
That’s not an uncommon feeling for teams that are going through a skid, but it’s not one that the Dodgers are too familiar with. In the past, the Dodgers have always felt the opposite, a key to their decade-long success. They’ve always felt like something was going to break their way, or someone was going to come through with the big hit. They’re always ready to pounce.
During the successful homestand, the Dodgers are back to feeling like themselves and are back to being the aggressors, punishing other teams for their mistakes. That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday, as the Dodgers applied relentless pressure and took advantage of a Josh Rojas miscue in right field to beat the D-backs, 4-2, at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have now won seven of their last eight games, improving to 25-18. They’ve outscored their opponents, 47-18, during the current homestand and have scored four or more runs in six of the eight games.
“You look back at some games in the last few weeks, we didn’t kind of close the gap, or take the lead, or cash in when we had opportunities,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Like I said a few days ago, I feel like the tide has turned and we have some good mojo going on in our clubhouse.”
For six innings, it was a pitchers’ duel between Clayton Kershaw and Matt Peacock. Kershaw continued his strong start to the season, allowing two runs and striking out eight over six innings of work. Kershaw’s velocity was slightly down on Wednesday, but he was still able to shut down the D-backs’ lineup with his superb command. The fastball was good enough, and the slider was the go-to pitch yet again, recording 14 whiffs. His only mistake came against Eduardo Escobar, who launched a two-run homer in the fourth inning.
The Dodgers had to play from behind, which has been an issue for them this season. But not on Wednesday. Not lately.
Yoshi Tsutsugo notched his first hit as a member of the Dodgers in the fourth, an opposite-field RBI single. Tsutsugo, who has struggled with velocity so far this season, smacked a 94 mph sinker from Peacock. It had an exit velocity of 110 mph, a good sign for Tsutsugo and the Dodgers.
After applying pressure throughout the night, the Dodgers’ offense was finally able to capitalize in the seventh. Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux — the two heroes from Tuesday — started off the frame with back-to-back walks. Albert Pujols got his first pinch-hit appearance with the Dodgers and responded with a bloop single that loaded the bases.
Following an Austin Barnes strikeout, the Dodgers got their break. Will Smith hit a liner to right field. Initially, it looked as if it would be good enough for a sac fly to tie the game. Instead, it ended up bouncing off Rojas’ glove, allowing the Dodgers to take a 3-2 lead. Three pitches later, Mookie Betts tacked on with an RBI double.
“Some weird stuff was happening [in the last road trip] and you just have to continue to go out there and play and that’s what all these guys are doing,” said Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who recorded his 321st career save, the third most by any closer with one team. “It definitely helps having the legend Albert Pujols be here, and having his presence in the clubhouse the last three days has been exciting. We’ve been playing well, and it’s fun.”
It’s the type of relentless attack and fun the Dodgers missed over the last month. The offense has put things together lately, pairing it up with elite starting pitching. The defense and bullpen have also been much-improved during the current homestand. After a three-week nap, the Dodgers look like themselves again: dangerous.
“It was important because clearly, we didn’t play good baseball on the road and we have to finish this one out tomorrow,” Roberts said. “But [on Friday we’re] going up to San Francisco, a team that’s playing really good baseball, and then going to Houston, so to take care of business at home is very important.”