The Dodgers have been losing these types of games for the last three weeks, but on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium they got the big hits, including a three-run home run by Gavin Lux in the eighth inning, capping a 6-4 comeback win over the Seattle Mariners at Dodger Stadium.
“Every win’s important, and they all feel good, but they’re not created equal,” manager Dave Roberts. “Just the way we came back and won a ballgame, and how we did it. Gavin’s been grinding, and for him to get that big hit was huge for our ball club.”
Rafael Montero, who got the last out of a seventh inning that saw the Dodgers pull to within a run, got the first two outs of the eighth in relatively short order, putting the Dodgers four outs away from a .500 record.
But a Chris Taylor single, stolen base, and a Matt Beaty hit by pitch turned this into a rally, albeit one that has eluded the Dodgers of late. They were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on the night when Lux stepped to the plate.
Make it 2-for-9.
It was the first home run of the season for Lux, who also singled and scored in the seventh. His exuberance and chest-beating celebration at the plate was befitting for a team and a player who has had trouble coming up with the big hit in recent weeks.
“You can see the pent-up emotion inside of him come out, which is a good thing and something we want,” said Walker Buehler. “If he keeps hitting the ball like that, he can yell and scream whenever he pleases.”
“I don’t really know where that came from at all, to be honest with you. I think I saw Joc [Pederson] do it last week, so I was copying him — no, I’m joking,” Lux said. “That’s by far the most emotion I’ve shown, and talking to some guys, we definitely needed that for sure.”
The two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth erased a three-run deficit, and made the three Mariners home runs off Buehler more of a footnote. Mitch Haniger hit a pair of solo shots off Buehler, and Kyle Seager hit a two-run shot, spoiling a night that saw Buehler pitch seven innings for the second time this season.
Buehler, who has lasted at least six innings in all seven starts in 2021, also struck out eight, the fourth straight outing in which he’s whiffed at least that many.
Tuesday marked just the third time in 68 career starts that Buehler allowed three home runs, and the first time he has done so at home. His other three-homer games came in Philadelphia on July 16, 2019, and in San Diego on Aug. 3, 2020.
After Haniger’s second home run, off a slider in the sixth inning, a fan at Dodger Stadium yelled, “Buehler, don’t throw that pitch again.” For what it’s worth, three different Buehler pitch types were victimized for homers on Tuesday — a four-seam fastball to Haniger in the first inning, and a cutter to Kyle Seager in the fourth.
“A little but frustrating for me personally,” Buehler said, “but as long as we’re winning, we’re good.”
They managed just one run when Kikuchi was in the game, a fourth-inning home run by Muncy, his third long ball in six games. The Mariners left-hander struck out a career-best 11 in his 6⅓ innings, matching Sonny Gray (April 28) for the most in a game against the Dodgers this season.
But Kikuchi also left after allowing a pair of singles in the seventh, and a wild Anthony Misiewicz allowed both to score in relief, after a walk then a two-run single by Corey Seager to cut the lead to 4-3, putting the Dodgers to within striking distance.
Garrett Cleavinger, who suffered three extra-inning losses in his first six appearances this year, pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts to earn the win. The rookie left-hander was the first Dodger reliever out of the bullpen in a day following an off day, and with another off day coming Thursday. Cleavinger entered with the Dodgers down a run.
“I just felt in a minus game, a one-run game albeit, Garrett gave us a really good chance to keep them there,” Roberts said. “To not have to lean on your leverage guys in a minus game, I think is good short-term and long-term. I think a lot of Garrett, and I think a lot of his stuff, so continue to show confidence in him, and he proved us right.”
Cleavinger’s teammates celebrated his first major league win accordingly.
“I think there was a semblance of a beer shower in there,” Roberts said.
Fill this out in triplicate
Taylor is making the three-bagger fashionable again at Chavez Ravine. He hit a two-out triple in the fourth inning — yes, he was stranded — for his third of the season. All have been at home, which is remarkable considering the Dodgers as a team hit two triples in 30 home games. Taylor hit four triples at home in both 2018 and 2019, and the last players to hit even three triples in a season at Dodger Stadium before that were Dee Strange-Gordon (five) and Andre Ethier (four) in 2014.
The record for triples at Dodger Stadium in a season is seven, hit by Tommy Davis in 1962.
On the mend
AJ Pollock was indeed available Tuesday night, pinch hitting for Buehler in the seventh inning. He drew a six-pitch walk, then in his first game since straining his left hamstring on Friday, Pollock was replaced by pinch-runner DJ Peters.
Home runs: Max Muncy (6), Gavin Lux (1); Mitch Haniger 2 (10), Kyle Seager (7)
WP — Garrett Cleavinger (1-3): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
LP — Rafael Montero (3-2): 1⅓ IP, 2 hits, 3 runs, 3 strikeouts
Sv — Kenley Jansen (6): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
Julio Urías starts the series finale on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), facing Seattle right-hander Justin Dunn.