SAN DIEGO — For a Dodgers offense that struggled to begin 2018, Yasmani Grandal was a consistent bright spot in the first few weeks. So on the night the team scored in double digits for the first time this season it is only fitting that Grandal was in the middle of things.
Grandal drove in a run in the second inning with a double and put the finishing touches on the rout of the Padres with a grand slam in the ninth inning, the third of his career. He has a six-game hitting streak.
“He’s trying to square it up and not trying to do too much. As a result he’s taking walks, he’s hitting the ball hard, and he’s getting rewarded,” manager Dave Roberts said. “This is as locked in as I’ve seen him.”
Grandal holds or shares the team lead in batting average (.372), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.651), total bases (28), extra-base hits (six), home runs (three), RBI (10) and walks (six).
He leads the team in OPS both batting left-handed (1.155) and right-handed (1.036) in the early going.
“He’s as good as we have as far as looking over a baseball and understanding strike from ball,” Roberts said. “When he’s stubborn in the strike zone he’s as good as anybody. Right now he’s seeing it really well.”
That has earned Grandal 10 starts in the first 15 games of the season, a stark contrast from last year’s postseason when a slumping Grandal gave way to Austin Barnes, who started 13 of 15 games in October.
“He wants the brunt of the playing time, and you do that by performing,” Roberts said. “He’s checking those boxes.”
Grandal wasn’t the only Dodger to homer on Monday night. He wasn’t even the only Dodger involved in a Grandal trade to homer on Monday. a Matt Kemp also did the deed, hitting a three-run shot that widened the Dodgers’ advantage to 6-2.
Kemp was 2-for-2 against left-hander Robbie Erlin, but with a four-run lead was pinch hit for in the top of the fifth with Joc Pederson, who walked twice and grounded out against three right-handed Padres relief pitchers. The move was so relatively early, especially on a team playing with just a four-man bench, that it prompted postgame questions of Kemp’s health.
“Matt’s fine. It was just more that he’s been getting the lion’s share of starts. I wanted to get Joc in there and keep getting him at-bats. Seeing their pen and where they were at, knowing the likelihood of two sidearmers coming in the game,” Roberts said. “Also the defense with the good lead, I felt that Joc is going to play good defense out there. And to keep Matt fresh.”
Kemp has started 12 of the Dodgers’ 15 games and totaled 46 plate appearances. Pederson has started five games, and has 32 plate appearances. Kemp has done the bulk of his damage against left-handed pitchers, going 8-for-14 (.571) with three extra-base hits against them. He’s 6-for-28 (.214) with two extra-base hits against righties.
Pederson against right-handers so far this season is 3-for-20 (.150) with two doubles and five walks (.320 OBP).
“Doc explained to me what he wanted to do,” Kemp said. “He wanted to get Joc in there and get it going for him, and I was there on the bench cheering for him. It is what it is.”
The Dodgers and Padres are back at it for another 7:10 p.m. PT start on Tuesday night, with Alex Wood on the mound for Los Angeles facing San Diego right-hander Bryan Mitchell.