Dodgers hitters found their way at Great American Ball Park, sweeping away the Reds both in the series and on the season with a 10-5 win on getaway day Thursday in Cincinnati.
Five home runs, a new season high, paced the offense, one from a red-hot star heading into his much-hyped weekend, and two others from a pair of slumping hitters. The scoring outburst, plating runs in eight consecutive innings, also overcame outs on the bases and some shaky bullpen work by the Dodgers.
Freddie Freeman has a red carpet and a World Series ring waiting for him in Atlanta this weekend, sure to be filled with ovations, hugs, and tears. He heads into the weekend scorching hot, including a two-run home run in the third inning on Thursday.
It was the second straight game with a home run for Freeman, who has reached base in 12 straight games. He drove in 10 runs in the three-game sweep of the Reds, thanks to seven hits in 12 at-bats, including four extra-base hits during the series.
Cody Bellinger entered with no hits in his last 15 at-bats and a .543 OPS in June. He was dropped to eighth in the batting order on Thursday, which sounds extreme until you consider that 70 percent of his starts this season came hitting seventh. Bellinger got the Dodgers odometer going with a sacrifice fly in the second inning.
The Dodgers had two sacrifice flies in each of the first two games of the series, the ninth time in franchise history they’ve had multiple sac flies in consecutive games. The five sacrifice flies in the series might not seem like such a big deal, but it matched the club’s total in the previous 42 games, a period that captured four of the team’s five extra-inning losses this season.
For what it’s worth, the Dodgers before Thursday had a runner on third with less than two outs 153 times this season, and brought home the run (by any means) 78 times, a 51-percent success rate that nestled slightly below the major league average of 52.2 percent.
Getting the run home by any means necessary sometimes comes with odd decisions, like in the second inning, when with the bases loaded and one out, Justin Turner tried to advance to third base on Bellinger’s sacrifice fly. It looked like Turner was giving himself up to make the Reds cut off the throw home, to guarantee the run. That’s exactly what happened, and Turner was thrown out easily.
Three Dodgers were thrown out on the bases in the first three innings. Trea Turner tried to steal in the first inning and didn’t pick up a fly out to left field in time to get back to first base. In the third, Austin Barnes was erased trying to advance from first to third on a single to left. The Dodgers have been thrown out 11 times at third base this season, three more than any other team in the majors.
All of those outs on the bases were swept neatly under the rug, thanks to an offense that compiled 26 runs and 42 hits in the three-game series. It’s their most runs scored and most hits in any three-game span in 2022.
Bellinger ended his hitless streak in the fourth inning, with a two-run home run of his own. He got the green light against Hunter Greene, hitting the Dodgers’ first home run on a 3-0 pitch this season. Bellinger also singled twice, and is 13-for-29 (.448) with six home runs and four doubles in Clayton Kershaw starts this season.
Since his triumphant return from the injured list, with five RBI on June 9 in Chicago, Max Muncy did not have an extra-base hit. But in the Dodgers’ first Thursday day game since that game two weeks ago, Muncy singled in his first two at-bats before smashing a ball 434 feet in the fifth inning, for his first three-hit game of the season.
Muncy’s home run came off Hunter Greene, the fireballing rookie starter for the Reds. He allowed three home runs on Thursday, all hit off his fastball. Greene, the former Notre Dame High School star from Sherman Oaks, made his second major league start near home at Dodger Stadium on April 16. He dazzled and held the Dodgers scoreless through five innings, before they finally got him for three runs in the sixth.
On Thursday, Greene allowed six runs in his five innings. After those five scoreless frames back in April, the Dodgers have scored in five of their last six innings against Greene.
Muncy and Bellinger weren’t alone in the three-hit club. Both Turners joined him. Justin doubled twice to give him 20 on the season, and made handful of excellent defensive plays at third base. Trea singled twice and doubled, one day after seeing his 13-game hitting streak snapped.
Will Smith, the designated hitter after catching two games, added a solo shot off reliever Jeff Hoffman in the seventh, his second home run and sixth hit of the series.
Clayton Kershaw struck out seven in his six innings, allowing only a run, to lower his seasonal ERA to 2.00. He was pulled with just 80 pitches, after a long conversation with manager Dave Roberts in the dugout. Given the Dodgers’ 8-1 advantage at the time, this wasn’t all that surprising.
However, squirming quickly ensued after Phil Bickford allowed hits to four of his six batters faced in the seventh inning. All four scored, thanks in large part to Tommy Pham crushing a three-run home run, turning a blowout into a potential save situation.
Insurance runs were added in the eighth and ninth, including Trayce Thompson’s first home run of the season.
Home runs: Freddie Freeman (8), Cody Bellinger (9), Max Muncy (5), Will Smith (10), Trayce Thompson (1); Tommy Pham (10)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (5-1): 6 IP, 7 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
LP — Hunter Greene (3-8): 5 IP, 9 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
The Dodgers play the Braves next, which is already heavily anticipated as a battle of the last two World Series winners, plus two teams that have met in the last two National League Championship Series and battled in the playoffs three times in the previous four years. But another layer is added this weekend with Freddie Freeman returning to Atlanta for the first time since leaving.
On the mound in the series opener Friday (4:20 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA) is Julio Urías, with Ian Anderson starting for Atlanta.