Miguel Vargas and Shohei Ohtani homer late to lift Dodgers past Brewers

The eighth-inning home runs that propelled the Dodgers to a 5-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in front of a crowd of 50,086 in Chavez Ravine on Saturday were as different as the men who hit them.

The first, by Miguel Vargas, a 24-year-old reserve outfielder from Cuba who is making the major league-minimum $740,000, was a towering 368-foot drive that landed on top of the left-field wall, just out of the reach of Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich. The pinch-hit shot to lead off the bottom of the eighth snapped a 3-3 tie.

“He put a good swing on a [fastball] that was really inside and kept it fair,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But I didn’t know if it had enough steam to get out.”

The second, by Shohei Ohtani, a 30-year-old slugger from Japan who signed a 10-year, $700-million deal in December, had the steam of a geyser, the one-out laser leaving Ohtani’s bat at 110 mph and traveling 430 feet to right-center to give the Dodgers a 5-3 lead and Ohtani a National League-leading 28 homers.

“I was certain of that one, yeah,” Roberts said. “That was a no-doubter for me.”

A long ball by Vargas and an even longer ball by Ohtani took Roberts off the hook for a strategic decision that backfired in the top of the eighth.

The Dodgers held a 3-2 lead after right-handers Daniel Hudson (sixth) and Blake Treinen (seventh) threw scoreless innings in relief of starter James Paxton, and Roberts turned to closer Evan Phillips to face the heart of the Brewers order — William Contreras, Yelich and Willy Adames — in the eighth.

Roberts had used the strategy successfully this season, most recently in a June 24 game at Chicago, when Phillips threw a scoreless eighth inning against the White Sox to protect a 2-0 lead and left-hander Alex Vesia closed the ninth inning of a 3-0 win.

Phillips struck out Contreras to open the eighth on Saturday, but he hung a 2-and-2 sweeper to the left-handed-hitting Yelich, who lined a 429-foot homer to center field to tie the score 3-3. Vesia threw a one-two-three ninth for his fifth save.

“It was a right-left thing,” Roberts said. “I feel confident with Alex against either, but I liked getting the right-hander on Contreras and Adames. [Phillips] left a sweeper middle-middle. If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing.”

The score was not knotted for long thanks to Vargas, who is making a push for more playing time with his productive bat, and Ohtani, who broke out of a seven-game slump with two walks, a triple and a home run.

Vargas has started only 12 games since he was recalled from triple-A in mid-May but is batting .349 (15 for 43) with a 1.059 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, three homers, four doubles and nine RBIs in 18 games.

“I’ve been patient, working on myself, trying to get this type of opportunity, and I’m grateful to have it and be successful,” Vargas said. “A hundred percent, it’s a hard job to do, but this is a team sport … I have to be ready when the moments come.”

Jason Heyward’s knee injury will open more playing time in left field for Vargas, who also began taking ground balls at third base, a position the Dodgers have struggled to fill since Max Muncy went down with an oblique strain on May 15.

Vargas struggled defensively at second base and hit .195 with a .672 OPS, seven homers and 32 RBIs in 81 games last season before being sent down at the All-Star break.

“He’s gaining more confidence each day and earning more opportunities,” Roberts said. “He had success at triple-A, and I think this second time around, he’s slowed down. There’s more clarity. Everyone wants to be out there, but only nine guys can play. He’s continuing to do his work and is focusing on performing when he gets the opportunity.”

Ohtani was stuck in a seven-game skid in which he hit .207 (six for 29) with a .751 OPS, two homers, three RBIs and 15 strikeouts entering Saturday. This was on the heels of a torrid 10-game stretch in which Ohtani hit .444 (16 for 36) with a 1.757 OPS, eight homers and 17 RBIs in 10 games.

“He’s chasing down — it’s that simple,” Roberts said before the game. “He’s had stretches of two, three, four games where he does that, and then he resets and gets back in his zone.”

Ohtani walked and scored in the first inning, was hit by a pitch in the second, walked in the fourth, tripled to right-center in the sixth and homered off left-hander Bryan Hudson in the eighth.

“Hitting is very difficult, and guys are going to bring their best when they face Shohei,” Roberts said. “But I think for him, simplifying where he’s good in the strike zone, then the natural ability takes over. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Paxton was hardly dominant, giving up two runs and four hits in five innings, striking out three and walking two, relying primarily on a four-seam fastball that averaged just 92.8 mph, down from his season average of 93.3 mph.

But Paxton, who is 7-2 with a 4.24 ERA in 16 starts, did stem the bleeding of a rotation that was rocked for 30 runs in 30 innings of the previous seven games.

“I used to get up to 98 mph, but I don’t really have that in the tank right now,” said Paxton, who had Tommy John surgery in 2021. “The cutter, which was a big strikeout pitch for me, hasn’t been there.

“I came into the season thinking the velocity would come, but it hasn’t come as much as I thought it would. So I think I’m evolving as a pitcher. My stuff isn’t what it used to be, but I’m pitching differently, pitching to weak contact, trying to give us a chance to win.”

The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Contreras walked, took second on a Yelich groundout and scored on Adames’ two-out RBI single to left field.

The Dodgers countered with three in the bottom of the first off Milwaukee ace Freddy Peralta, Ohtani leading off with a walk and Will Smith hitting his fourth homer in six plate appearances, a two-run shot that traveled 369 feet to right field.

Smith, who hit three homers and walked twice Friday night, became the first Dodger to homer in four consecutive at-bats since Adrian Gonzalez on April 7-8, 2015, and the first major leaguer to do so since Houston’s Jose Altuve on Sept. 3-5, 2023.

Freddie Freeman singled to left, took third on Teoscar Hernández’s single to center and scored on Andy Pages’ fielder’s-choice grounder for a 3-1 lead. The Brewers pulled to within 3-2 in the fourth on Rhys Hoskins solo homer to left off Paxton.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top