After hurting his middle finger on a swing last Sunday in Phoenix, Betts was limited to defensive duties during the three-game series in San Diego. But a session in the batting cage Wednesday, treatment on his finger Thursday, and conferring with head athletic trainer Neil Rampe made Betts feel good enough Friday to rejoin the starting lineup for the first time in five days.
“To get him back in the lineup and not just as a defense replacement certainly makes us better,” said manager Dave Roberts, delivering the understatement of the day on a pregame conference call.
The off day Thursday helped shape how the Dodgers handled Betts this week.
“I think the third day in San Diego, I probably could have played. But the training staff did a great job giving me extra time to make sure I was 100 percent,” Betts said after the game. “I woke up this morning with no issues. Everything is normal.”
Normal for Betts means extra-base hits, something he’s done at least once in six of his last seven starts.
Betts doubled in the first inning and homered in the third inning off Giants starter Jeff Samardzija, giving him extra-base hits in four consecutive plate appearances dating back to Sunday. Betts, who had no extra-base hits in the Dodgers’ opening four-game series against San Francisco, has six doubles and three home runs in seven starts since, hitting .414 (12-for-29).
But on the night they welcomed Betts back to the lineup, shortstop Corey Seager left the game in the third inning with lower back discomfort.
Roberts said after the game that Seager was undergoing tests, and likely wouldn’t play Saturday.
“Right now he’s in the day-to-day category,” Roberts said.
Betts wasn’t the only one who got to Samardzija on Friday. The Dodgers got to him for six runs in four-plus innings, including home runs by Max Muncy and Will Smith.
For Muncy, the home run was a welcome sight, his first extra-base hit in seven games. Muncy was dropped to sixth in the batting order Friday after just five hits in his previous 43 at-bats (.116).
“I like the way he’s still taking walks, and there’s still some slug in there,” Roberts said before the game. “He’s working real hard, he’ll get through it.”
Edwin Rios added a home run in the eighth inning, off reliever Wandy Peralta. It was Rios’ seventh career home run, in just 64 plate appearances, his first off a left-handed pitcher and his first at Dodger Stadium.
Julio Urías only allowed a run, but was limited to just four innings with a high pitch count. He walked two and had a three-ball count to five batters, including an eight-pitch walk of Austin Slater to open the game, and a 12-pitch strikeout of Wilmer Flores in the fourth.
“He labored,” Roberts said on the SportsNet LA broadcast during the game. “It seemed like every inning he was grinding, and max effort.”
Having a rested bullpen after Thursday’s day off helped inform the quick hook. It was the shortest of three starts this season for Urías, who has a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings. It snapped a string of five consecutive starts of at least five innings from the Dodgers rotation.
“I’m just not getting ahead of batters, not throwing the first pitch for strikes. I’m getting into these long counts,” Urías said after the game, through a translator, “but it’s something I’m going to work on this week. Hopefully I’ll go out in five days and get the results.”
Dodgers relievers struck out eight in five innings to close out the win.
Home runs: Mookie Betts (3), Max Muncy (4), Will Smith (2), Edwin Rios (3); Wilmer Flores (3)
WP — Dylan Floro (1-0): 1 IP, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts
LP — Jeff Samardzija (0-2): 4+ IP, 7 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
Clayton Kershaw makes his second start of the season on Saturday night (6:10 p.m. PT; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), giving us the matchup with Johnny Cueto we were expecting on Opening Day.