How Dodgers are barreling baseballs, scoring bushels of runs

How Dodgers are barreling baseballs scoring bushels of runs

The Dodgers are averaging 6.9 runs per game during their nine-game win streak, batting .307 with an .865 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 11 homers, 31 doubles and two triples since July 31.

Pan out to a wider shot of their torrid 31-5 stretch since June 29, and the Dodgers are averaging a major league-best 5.91 runs and batting .281 with an .846 OPS, 51 homers, 88 doubles and 10 triples in the 36 games.

But when asked after Tuesday night’s 10-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins if the offense is firing on all cylinders, Max Muncy provided a response that could cause even more trepidation for opposing pitchers trying to subdue a club with a major league-best 76-33 record.

“Scary enough, I think there’s still a lot more in there for the whole team,” said Muncy, who hit a home run and a double in the game. “It’s been looking really good lately. We’ve been looking good all year long.

“Yet at the same time, not all of us have gotten going all at once. Hopefully we save that for the playoffs. But right now, we’re just taking it one day at a time. We’re playing the game today.”

The Dodgers are on a 112-win pace, and with a 16-game lead in the National League West, they are well on their way to their ninth division title in 10 years.

About their only offensive concern at the moment is that they might peak too soon, like they did in 2019 when they won 106 games and took the NL West by 21 games before fizzling in a first-round playoff loss to the eventual World Series-champion Washington Nationals.

Which is why Dodgers manager Dave Roberts grinned when told of Muncy’s comments.

“I like being greedy, I like that mind-set,” Roberts said. “It just guards against some complacency. You look at it collectively, and we’re doing a lot of good things. I’m sure you can kind of poke holes, because a couple of guys aren’t red hot right now, but one through nine, it seems like every guy up there is going to get a hit.

“As a manager, that’s a really good feeling. I think for the first time all year we’ve had nine guys that feel pretty confident when they get in the batter’s box.”

The top four batters in the order — Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith — have carried the offense for most of the season, and they have combined to hit .336 with five homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs and 28 runs during the nine-game win streak. Gavin Lux has been solid all season, batting .297 with a .795 OPS, 27 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs.

But Muncy and Cody Bellinger, the 2019 NL most valuable player who has struggled so much this season he’s been dropped to the ninth spot in the order, have been heating up, and Justin Turner had two hits in his return from an abdominal strain Tuesday night, adding more depth to the lineup.

Muncy was slowed in the first half by his recovery from the left elbow injury that knocked him out of the playoffs last October, the infielder batting .158 with a .612 OPS, nine homers and 31 RBIs in his first 79 games through late July.

But he is batting .316 with three homers, four doubles and eight RBIs in 10 games since July 28, and he drove a 412-foot homer to right-center field in the third inning and smoked a 105.8-mph RBI double to right in the seventh Tuesday night.

“It feels really good,” Muncy said. “It’s a little bit of a relief for me. All the work I’m putting in is finally paying off a little bit. But I’ve got to keep at it. I can’t think that I’m out of it yet. I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Bellinger is batting .212 with a .674 OPS, 15 homers, 48 RBIs and 110 strikeouts but has made more consistent contact in his last 12 games, batting .267 with a .936 OPS, three homers, six doubles and 13 RBIs. He homered twice in Sunday night’s win over San Diego.

Justin Turner was on a tear before going on the injured list, hitting .431 with a 1.180 OPS, four homers and 16 RBIs in 17 games from June 30 to July 27. He doubled to left-center in the third inning, singled to right in the fifth and drove in a run with a groundout in the seventh Tuesday night.

“It’s remarkable,” Roberts said. “J.T. has had some bouts on the IL, but it’s amazing how he can come back and not miss a beat and take good at-bats, throw hits out there, use the whole field, when he hadn’t played much in two or three weeks.

“It’s a credit to him knowing his body and what it takes to conduct an at-bat. Having him back in there driving in runs, running counts, seeing pitches, all that stuff just makes our lineup so dangerous.”

The Dodgers even got a contribution from Joey Gallo, the former two-time All-Star who is trying to resuscitate his career after a brutal 140-game stretch in New York, where he hit .159 with 25 homers and 194 strikeouts in 501 plate appearances over the second half of 2021 and first half of 2022.

Gallo, acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline, looked overmatched in a two-inning simulated game against rehabilitating Dodgers relievers Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol on Tuesday afternoon.

Then the game started and he crushed a 112.3-mph missile to right field for a double in his first at-bat, the second-hardest hit ball by a Dodgers player this season. He popped out and struck out twice in his final three at-bats.

“That can do a lot for him,” Roberts said of Gallo’s hit. “He’s working really hard. You can always encourage a player, but until you get results, you drive in a run, then it starts to kind of become real.

“So I know there’s a big weight off his shoulders. He’s working his tail off, and to get rewarded was good. We’re all excited for him.”

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