James Outman played a central role in the Dodgers’ 9-4 win with a career-best four hits, including two home runs on Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, continuing a strong start for the rookie outfielder.
Outman in the third inning hit a home run that gave the Dodgers the lead for the third time in the series, along with his solo shot and ninth-inning grand slam on Thursday night. He added a two-run shot in the ninth.
James Outman cannot be stopped. pic.twitter.com/AozIMfB6QW— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 22, 2023
James Outman’s seven homers in March and April are the most by a Dodger rookie - ever. pic.twitter.com/YlpuXbxu1D— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 22, 2023
Outman also fought a ball off his hands for a two-out single to score another run in the fourth.
The Dodgers outfielder leads all major league rookies in home runs (seven), total bases (50), batting average (.314), on-base percentage (.407), slugging percentage (.714), OPS (1.121), runs batted in (19), and runs scored (14). His seven home runs are the most in a month* by a Dodgers rookie since catcher Will Smith hit eight in August 2019, and the most homers by a Dodgers rookie ever in April.
*For baseball purposes, April also includes any games in March (just as September also encapsulates any October stragglers in the regular season). Outman’s first home run this season came on March 30.
In the sixth inning, Outman singled against southpaw Brandon Hughes, the middle knock of a three-hit inning to tack on an insurance run, driven home on a pinch-hit single by fellow rookie Miguel Vargas, who needed that result, hitting just .184/.255/.265 since getting hit by a pitch on his right thumb on April 3.
Outman has more than held his own against left-handed pitchers, reaching base 10 times in 18 plate appearances against southpaws while hitting .333 (4-for-12) with a home run and a double. That’s earned Outman the start in 20 of 22 games this season; he’s one of only three Dodgers to play every game, along with first baseman Freddie Freeman and designated hitter J.D. Martinez.
Overall, Outman leads the Dodgers in OPS, batting average, slugging percentage, and total bases. His 19 RBI are tied with Max Muncy, who also homered twice on Saturday to tie Pete Alonso for the major league lead in home runs.
Outman’s done all of this while batting higher than sixth only four times — batting fifth last Saturday, and hitting leadoff in the three games Mookie Betts didn’t start surrounding his paternity leave. Outman hit sixth on Saturday, but has certainly earned the right to bat higher in the lineup, especially with Smith not expected to return from the concussion on this road trip, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register notes.
Getting it out of the way early
After only one hit, a squibber up the third base line, on Friday, the Dodgers began Saturday with hits by Betts and Freeman to open the first, and then Max Muncy walked to load the bases. But the two hardest-hit balls of the inning, with J.D. Martinez’s hard grounder right at Nico Hoerner at second base for a double play, scoring Betts, then Jason Heyward’s drive to center getting tracked down nearly 400 feet away by a leaping Cody Bellinger for a second consecutive Saturday.
It was only one run out of a bases-loaded, nobody out situation, but after Friday it was at least a step in the right direction.
Naturally, the Cubs also loaded the bases with nobody out in the first. Dustin May was able to limit the damage to just one run, but needed 27 pitches to do so.
May settled down nicely after that, though the taxing opening frame cost him a chance at completing six innings. May struck out a season-high six in his 5⅓ innings, allowing only two hits but also walked three and hit a batter.
- Muncy through the Dodgers’ first 10 games had four hits in 33 at-bats (.121) with one home run. Since then he has nine home runs in 45 plate appearances, hitting .382/.533/1.176 with 17 RBI in the last 12 games.
- Outman (four) and Muncy (three) drove in seven of the Dodgers’ nine runs on Saturday, and in the first three games against the Cubs those two have combined to drive in 13 of the team’s 15 runs.
- The Dodgers stole three bases in seven attempts in the first 19 games of the season. But they’ve stolen five bases without getting caught in this series at Wrigley Field — three on Thursday night, and two (by Betts and Chris Taylor) on Saturday.
- Alex Vesia relieved May with a runner on in the sixth inning, and recorded the final two outs. The left-hander walked Cody Bellinger (in home plate umpire Mike Estabrook’s estimation) but for the first time in nine appearances this season did not allow a hit.
Home runs: James Outman 2 (7), Max Muncy 2 (10); Nico Hoerner (2)
WP — Dustin May (2-1): 5⅓ IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts
LP — Hayden Wesneski (1-1): 4⅓ IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeouts
The Dodgers and Cubs conclude their regular season meetups on Sunday (11:20 a.m. PT, SportsNet LA), with Clayton Kershaw starting the series finale looking for win number 201. Marcus Stroman pitches for Chicago.