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Max Muncy’s home run & everyday Will Smith lead Dodgers over Padres

Los Angeles is 7-2 against San Diego, the team they lead by 14½ games in the NL West

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Max Muncy’s three-run home run turned the game around, keying an 8-3 triumph, leading the Dodgers over the Padres for a second time in as many days in this weekend playoff preview series at Dodger Stadium.

Mike Clevinger mostly held the Dodgers at bay on Saturday, taking a 3-2 lead into the fifth. Mookie Betts singled to open the frame, and Will Smith was hit by a pitch with two outs. Both stole a base on separate attempts, putting a pair of runners in scoring position for Muncy, who hit a 2-2 slider into the visitors bullpen, the surest signal possible that a new pitcher would enter this game for San Diego.

Muncy’s home run not only gave the Dodgers the lead, but also added to a mini hot streak of sorts for the infielder who has struggled all season at the plate. He has a at least a hit and a run in all four games he’s played in August, totaling two home runs and a double this month. He’s reached base in eight straight games.

The Big Four

Much of the attention surrounding the Dodgers offense this season has been the first three hitters in the lineup. The coverage is well-deserved, as Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman are all starts who drive what has been the best offense in the National League all season.

But the guy who hits fourth nearly every day is pretty good, too.

Smith homered in the second inning against Clevinger, then singled home Betts in the third. After getting hit and scoring on Muncy’s homer in the fifth, Smith added a sacrifice fly to score Turner in the seventh.

Three runs batted in gave Smith four multi-RBI games in his last nine, coinciding with his nine-game hitting streak. But what’s striking is just how durable he’s become.

Wednesday night in San Francisco was the only day off for Betts in the last two weeks, with the Dodgers’ last off day as a team coming during the All-Star break. Smith has started 50 of the Dodgers last 54 games, including 14 starts at designated hitter. During that stretch, Smith is hitting .305/.374/.548 with 25 extra-base hits and 36 RBI.

Smith also joined Manny Ramirez as the only Dodgers designated hitters with a home run and stolen base in the same game. Ramirez had his game on June 19, 2010 at his old stomping ground at Fenway Park.

Good in stretches, but will stretching be good?

Andrew Heaney’s outing was some both encouraging and worrisome. He averaged 93 mph on his fastball — a tick above his 92-mph average — topping out at 95.4 mph in the first inning. That helped him cruise into the fourth inning with a lead.

Defense didn’t help Heaney in the fourth, with Gavin Lux booting a grounder on the third base side of second base. That error made all three runs in the frame unearned, but Heaney was not without fault, allowing five straight batted balls with exit velocities between 98-108 mph.

Heaney allowed two hard-hit balls in the first, including a leadoff double by Jurickson Profar. But the left-handed got Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Josh Bell in succession to escape any damage.

In the fourth, Soto started things with a single, and it was Bell’s one-out grounder that turned things sideways. Fellow Padres newcomer Brandon Drury doubled to left field for the Padres first run, which was eventful for multiple reasons.

Drury’s double was the first extra-base hit against Heaney with runners in scoring position this season. Batters in those situations are 4-for-26 (.154) against the left-hander, with two of those hits coming in Saturday’s fourth inning. Heaney has allowed eight doubles among his 18 hits allowed in six starts this season. Drury’s was the only double to drive in a run, and when he scored on Wil Myers’ single he was just the second doubler against Heaney this season to score. Both of those were unearned.

After the hard-hit barrage in the fourth, Heaney remained in for the fifth inning, the longest of his three starts since returning from the injured list. Heaney got two outs in the fifth, including Soto.

Heaney was mostly effective Saturday even though he left trailing, which makes the next two months intriguing. Heaney’s 81 pitches in this one are his second-most in any start — majors or minors — this season, and his most since April 17. He’s pitching well enough to be an integral part of the postseason staff, but his role remains to be determined.

He’s missed two long stretches with left shoulder inflammation or soreness this season, and he’ll need to keep building up his pitch count to make his way into an October rotation. But he also needs to remain healthy to get to that point, so mark his usage down as a key item to watch down the stretch.

Saturday particulars

Home runs: Will Smith (16), Max Muncy (11)

WP — Chris Martin (3-0): 1 IP, 1 strikeout

LP — Mike Clevinger (3-4): 4⅔ IP, 7 hits, 5 unearned runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Up next

Tyler Anderson makes his second appearance of the series on Sunday night (4:08 p.m., SportsNet LA), but his first on the mound. Yu Darvish starts the series finale for the Padres.