Dodgers roar back with four homers in eighth inning to beat Padres
The Dodgers’ pursuit of a ninth straight National League West title appeared to have effectively ended shortly after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
While Brusdar Graterol imploded on the mound against the dispirited San Diego Padres in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium, the San Francisco Giants applied the finishing touches on a 1-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks up north. Graterol faced four batters, surrendered three runs, and didn’t record an out before he was yanked to boos. The Dodgers trailed by four runs. Fans streamed for the parking lot.
A loss and the Dodgers would fall to three games behind the first-place Giants with four games left in the regular season — all but sealing their spot in next week’s NL wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
But the Dodgers didn’t lose Wednesday. They mashed their way back, one booming swat at a time, leaving Dodger Stadium shaking during a thunderous 11-9 comeback victory.
The unlikely rally began with Mookie Betts breathing some life back into his team, launching a solo home run off Daniel Hudson in the seventh inning to trim the deficit to three.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recalled at that point bench coach Bob Geren telling him they were going to win the game.
“He’s an eternal optimist,” Roberts noted.
He was also correct.
Max Muncy and AJ Pollock began the bottom of the eighth with back-to-back homers. Two batters later, Cody Bellinger, playing with fractured ribs during his historically dismal season, smashed his first home run since Aug. 11 in his second plate appearance since coming off the injured list Tuesday to tie the score at 9-9.
Corey Seager, after Justin Turner delivered a pinch-hit double, completed the eighth-inning slugfest with a go-ahead line-drive two-run home run over the right-field wall. The shortstop sprinted around the bases in excitement, topping off the Dodgers’ first inning with four home runs since Sept. 5, 2016. The ballpark, silent minutes earlier, was deafening.
“We were just trying to take care of our own business,” Seager said. “That’s a huge morale win for us. We’re still trying to accomplish a goal. We’re still fighting for that and showing that grit and that drive and that will. To come back and win that game is huge for us moving forward.”
The sequence reminded Roberts of a game at Dodger Stadium 15 years ago when he was on the other side. Roberts was the leadoff hitter for the Padres on Sept. 18, 2006 when the Dodgers erased a 9-5 deficit in the ninth inning with four consecutive home runs. They went on to win in the 10th inning on Nomar Garciaparra’s walk-off two-run homer.
“A lot of the same vibe,” Roberts said.
Bellinger was only on the field because Gavin Lux, a middle infielder tasked to make a difficult midseason transition to the outfield, exited the game in the sixth inning after crashing into the wall in center field at full speed attempting to make a catch. After the game, Roberts said Lux suffered a neck stinger and his status moving forward is unclear.
Lux has been used exclusively as an outfielder since being recalled from the minor leagues Sept. 10 despite his inexperience because the Dodgers (102-56) have wanted his bat in the lineup. Lux, who has started his last six games in center field, is batting .367 in 15 games since rejoining the team.
The Dodgers appeared on their way to an easy win after spotting Max Scherzer a four-run lead against left-hander Ryan Weathers after the first inning. But Scherzer was knocked around for the second straight start.
After yielding five runs in five innings to the Colorado Rockies last week, Scherzer gave up six runs (five earned) across 5 1/3 innings to fumble the lead. The right-hander didn’t issue a walk but had only four strikeouts — his lowest total this season excluding when he exited a start in June in the first inning because of injury. It’s the first time Scherzer has given up at least five runs in consecutive starts since May 2014.
The Dodgers weren’t supposed to need Scherzer for the final stretch. He was acquired only after Trevor Bauer was accused of sexual assault and put on paid administrative leave July 2 for — at the time — an unknown period. The leave proved to be for the rest of the season. Scherzer was added out of desperation to mask the franchise’s failure to adequately vet a player it committed to paying more than $100 million over three seasons.
The repair work, plus All-Star Trea Turner, cost the Dodgers four minor leaguers, including two of their top prospects — Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray — at the July 30 trade deadline. Scherzer’s time in Los Angeles could be over when the season ends as he is free agent this winter, though Turner has another season under team control. It was a hefty price for a World Series push. But the move has paid astounding dividends despite Scherzer’s recent results.
Turner entered Wednesday on pace to become the Dodgers’ first batting champion since Tommy Davis in 1962 and 1963. He went one for five Wednesday, dropping his batting average one point to .324 — six points ahead of former Nationals teammate Juan Soto for tops in the National League.
“He text me a little while ago,” Turner said Tuesday. “He told me he was coming for me.”
Scherzer was, for his first nine starts as a Dodger, the best pitcher in the major leagues. He went 38 innings over seven without surrendering an earned run. But his last two outings have been forgettable.
He exited with one out in the sixth inning moments after Lux limped off in pain. Bellinger then emerged to take Lux’s place in center field, stoking cheers from the crowd still behind the 2019 NL MVP despite his nightmare season. They would swell once the Dodgers’ division chase, briefly thought to be over, was suddenly back on again with a flurry of blasts.
“That was a crazy inning,” Bellinger said. “Maybe the craziest I’ve been a part of.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.