As crazy as it sounds, the Los Angeles Dodgers entered the final weekend of April with just a lone series win – their home opening 3-1 series win against the San Diego Padres. Since then, they had lost or split every remaining series, resulting in a below .500 record.
Nobody wants to say that an April series against the Philadelphia Phillies was a must-win, but the fans felt it and the players seemingly felt it as well. The series opener on Friday went well. Maeda pitched six strong innings, faltering only in the third inning. The Dodger bats consistently put up runs in the middle innings – something they have struggled with all year – and before you knew it, Los Angeles was back at .500 (12-12).
Saturday night is when you got the sense that this season was turning around for the Dodgers. Brandon McCarthy, who entered the contest with a 3-0 record, was knocked around for four runs. The bullpen gave up one more in the eighth, which meant the Dodgers were down to their final three outs and facing a 5-2 deficit. Puig led off the inning with a long AB, eventually homering to left center. What remained of the crowd began to stir. Exiting fans stopped on the stairwell, perhaps reluctantly agreeing to see just one more at bat.
All they needed to see was 1 pitch. Rookie Cody Bellinger crushed a mammoth home-run off the right field foul pole (his second of the game) and the deficit was suddenly 5-4. In stepped Justin Turner, proud owner of the season’s longest active hitting streak (15 games). Turner had been given a rest day, but LA needed a big bat in this situation, and nobody’s bat has been hotter than JT. With one chance to extend his hitting streak, and more importantly, keep the Dodger rally alive, he too responded with a home run to deep left field. The comeback was complete 5-5 tie. A pair of singles by Austin Barnes and Corey Seager set the stage for Adrian Gonzalez who responded with a grounder to the gap between short and third. Maikel Franco was unable to make the play, Barnes never stopped running, and the Dodgers won in walkoff fashion.
With at least a .500 record secured for the month of April, LA entered the final game of the series on as high of a high as you could possibly imagine. Hyun-Jin Ryu took the ball, looking for his first win since 2014, and pitched well enough to earn it. He allowed just 1 run over 5.1 innings, striking out 9. The Dodger bats were quiet for much of the game before Andrew Toles launched a three run homer, providing some much needed insurance, putting the Dodgers up 5-1. Turns out they would need that home-run as Josh Fields was unable to pitch a clean 9th inning, forcing Dave Roberts to turn to Kenley Jansen to record the game’s final out – which he did in typical Kenley fashion… getting the K.
With April in the books, the Dodgers set their sights on the San Francisco Giants who come to town battered and bruised, both physically and emotionally. SF will be without their ace, Madison Bumgarner, through the All-Star Break – maybe longer. Their bullpen surrendered leads in two games of their weekend series against San Diego, and the offense hasn’t been able to pick the team up. Rivalries aside, this is a series that the Dodgers need to win convincingly if they expect to keep their momentum.