The Dodgers were in pure scramble mode on the pitching side for the last week and a half, with a combination of injuries, a revolving door of fresh arms from Triple-A, and ineffectiveness that might have crippled the team. But they managed to win five of the last 10 games thanks to an offense that was able to sweep most of the pitching woes under the rug.
Dating back to May 15, Dodgers relievers have pitched more innings (49⅓) than the starters (40⅓). No starting pitcher lasted past five innings until Tony Gonsolin on Wednesday against the Braves. Nineteen different pitchers appeared at least once in the last 10 games, which goes a long way in explaining how the Dodgers allowed 5.9 runs game during that time.
The offense, on the other hand, has been very stable, with the same 13 position players occupying active roster spots for the last two weeks.
To help buoy the pitching, the Dodgers offense scored at least five runs in eight of the last 10 games, including seven in a row before Wednesday, their longest streak since June 2018. During the 10-game hell stretch for the pitching, the offense scored 6.3 runs per game.
Mookie Betts homered on Wednesday, giving him seven home runs and 19 RBI already in May, with a week left in the month. Freddie Freeman, who hit his 300th career home run last Thursday in St. Louis, has 18 extra-base hits this month and has a 14-game hit streak.
Those two at the top of the lineup have been fixtures all season.
The linchpin is catcher Will Smith, who is hitting .317/.412/.550 this season with a 161 wRC+ that ranks eighth in the majors among hitters with at least 140 plate appearances. His absence on the concussion injured list perhaps is best expressed this way — the Dodgers have been held to three or fewer runs only 17 times this season, tied for seventh-fewest in the majors; eight of those low-scoring games have come in the 19 games Smith did not start.
The two big IL stints on offense this year were Smith for 13 games with a concussion, and J.D. Martinez missing 15 games with lower back tightness. Those overlapped for three games in Pittsburgh, where the Dodgers lost two of three games from April 25-27.
The Dodgers have won seven of eight series since Smith returned.
“Obviously you want your best players in there,” manager Dave Roberts said when Martinez was activated on May 12. “Optically, the way I write the lineup out, it does look right, it does look good. It looks long and deep. So now we’ve just got to go out there and perform.”
Martinez since getting activated has driven in 15 runs in 12 games. He homered three times in the first two games in Atlanta, and hit three-run home runs on each of the last two Saturdays. On the season, he’s hitting .268/.311/.580 with a 135 wRC+ and 23 extra-base hits in 35 games.
Smith had three hits and drove in three on Tuesday, then he and Martinez started a game-tying rally in the eighth inning on Wednesday.
When Betts, Freeman, Smith, and Martinez all start, the Dodgers this year are 13-6 while averaging 6.11 runs per game. In all other games, they are 18-14, averaging 5.09 runs.
Those four plus Muncy makes arguably the best lineup quintet in the game. Rookies James Outman and Miguel Vargas are playing regularly, and the Dodgers have divvied up playing time for the other two spots in the lineup. But with the stability at the top, the Dodgers offense has helped raise the floor for what could have been a brutal stretch.