Teoscar Hernández's decisive three-run homer caps Dodgers' seven-run, ninth-inning comeback

During his team’s resurgence at the plate in recent weeks, in which the Dodgers have once again looked like their high-powered selves, Dave Roberts has used one adjective in his praise of the club above all else.

On more than one occasion, the manager has highlighted his players’ “fight” at the plate, extolling their ability to battle off pitches, extend at-bats and keep the team in games.

“We always talk about it here in the clubhouse,” outfielder Teoscar Hernández said. “Don’t give away at-bats. Fight through the at-bats. See a lot of pitches. And try to get a good one.”

On Tuesday, in the kind of comeback the club had not experienced in almost 100 years, the Dodgers epitomized everything Roberts and his players had been talking about, exploding for seven runs in an historic ninth-inning rally to snatch an unlikely 11-9 win over the Colorado Rockies.

“Man, there’s a lot to unpack,” Roberts said afterward, still buzzing from the franchise’s biggest ninth-inning comeback since 1957, and first in which they’d erased a five-run ninth-inning hole without playing extra innings since 1929. “That fight, I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”

On three separate occasions Tuesday, the Dodgers found themselves trailing by five.

The Rockies led 6-1 in the bottom of the second and 7-2 at the end of the fourth, with every run coming against Walker Buehler in his worst start of an already frustrating season.

Colorado was ahead 9-4 going into the eighth, having extinguished one Dodgers rally on a diving catch from Brenton Doyle in center field in the top of the seventh, and scoring an insurance run off Dodgers reliever Michael Peterson in his MLB debut a half-inning later.

But, even with their closer, Tyler Kinley, in the game, and the bottom of the Dodgers order due up in the ninth, the Rockies couldn’t get over the finish line.

Instead, the Dodgers loaded the bases on a single and two walks. They got back within one on a pinch-hit grand slam from Jason Heyward. And then — in a moment that not only flipped the script of Tuesday night’s game, but also defined the identity the Dodgers have been striving for this season — Hernández came to the plate, stayed alive in a two-strike at-bat, then launched a towering three-run home run the other way.

A thunderous bow on a seven-run outburst.

“When Jason hit that grand slam to turn the lineup over,” Hernández said, “you knew something was going to happen.”

A few weeks ago, such confidence at the plate appeared to be in short supply for the Dodgers. During a 12-12 stretch from May 10 to June 5, their star-studded offense averaged just 3.7 runs per game. Hitting in the clutch was a particular area of repeated frustration.

Since then, though, the lineup has started to rediscover its stride.

In their last 12 games, the Dodgers are 8-4. They are averaging more than 6.25 runs per contest in that stretch. And this week, they’ve totaled 20 runs in two games at Coors Field even while missing leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who is out six to eight weeks with a hand fracture.

In Betts’ place, other stars like Shohei Ohtani (who hit his National League-leading 20th home run of the season Tuesday a whopping 476 feet) and Hernández (who is leading the team with 54 RBIs) have stepped up. But the team’s all-around approach has made key strides, too.

“That’s our approach to every single at-bat, every single day,” Heyward said. “Sometimes it looks ugly. Sometimes it looks pretty. But when you’re able to stick with that over the course of a season, to fill out big games, big spots, big moments, I think that’s how you get better. That’s how you improve.”

It’s also how the unlikeliest of wins can still be achieved — how the Dodgers, once looking left for dead on Tuesday, found a way to keep staying alive.

Heyward’s at-bat was perhaps most impressive, a two-strike battle in which the veteran outfielder eventually prevailed.

After swinging through one slider on a 2-and-1 count, then fouling off another on the next pitch, Heyward simplified his mind-set at the plate.

“I just told myself, ‘All right, you got a feel for the take, you got a feel for the swing. So right here, take your time,’” he said. “If it’s there, it’s there. If it’s not, tip my cap.”

When Kinley fired a third straight slider, Heyward hammered a high line drive off the foul pole in right.

The deficit suddenly trimmed to one, Ohtani kept the inning going by slicing a single to left, then advancing to second on a wild pitch. The Rockies intentionally walked Freddie Freeman with first base open. That brought up Hernández in the type of high-leverage moment he has thrived in all year.

“He reminds me of Manny Ramirez,” Roberts said. “When guys are on base, that’s when he really starts to lock it in and focus. He hunts those RBIs. That’s how you win baseball games.”

Hernández’s at-bat wasn’t without controversy. With two outs and two strikes, he contorted his body to check what would have been a game-ending swing.

The Rockies appealed to first base umpire Lance Barksdale, but he upheld the call. Manager Bud Black came out to argue, but was immediately ejected from the game. Video replay made it seem like Hernández might have gone around. Countless batters have been called out for less.

“It was close,” Hernández said. “Now that I saw the replay, I don’t think so. But you could’ve called it either way, and I think it would’ve been fine.”

The at-bat still alive, Hernández attacked the very next pitch, clubbing a center-cut fastball the other way for the deciding three-run shot.

“I honestly feel like we just got rewarded with our process right there,” Heyward said.

A process that, lately, has been marked by the Dodgers’ ability to battle at the plate and — even down five runs in the ninth inning — find a way to fight.

Walker Buehler IL stint ‘possible’

After Buehler’s four-inning, seven-run start Tuesday — the most runs the pitcher has given up in a start since 2019 — both he and Roberts hinted at the possibility of the right-hander getting some sort of break amid his poor start to the season.

With a 5.84 ERA through eight starts this year, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery in 2022, Buehler said there has been some thought internally of giving him a midseason “blow” in order to “reset” his performance.

Buehler was also hit in the hip by a comebacker Tuesday. While it didn’t force the pitcher from the game, Roberts said there was some “concern” about the residual soreness it would create, making an injured list stint “possible” for the struggling 29-year-old.

“Given how he’s feeling, how he’s throwing the baseball and what happened tonight with that liner off his hip, it’s certainly going to be a conversation,” Roberts said. “We have some off days coming up that could line up so a blow is possible, for sure.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top