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Dodgers continue their home-run hitting ways in comeback over Cardinals

In Sports
April 01, 2024
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31, 2024: Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy (13) leaps.

Shohei Ohtani led the American League in home runs last season. He has yet to hit his first home run for his new team. Nonetheless, the Dodgers lead the major leagues in home runs.

The Dodgers hit more home runs than any major league team besides the Atlanta Braves last season. Out: J.D. Martinez and David Peralta, who combined for 40 home runs last season. In: Ohtani and Teoscar Hernández, who combined for 70.

“I think we have more slug,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

The Dodgers certainly slugged the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, with two punches that turned what would have been a sloppy and dispiriting defeat into a dramatic 5-4 victory at Dodger Stadium.

Read more: Motivated by move to shortstop, Dodgers veteran Mookie Betts is on a tear

The Dodgers were five outs from defeat, five outs from a .500 start to perhaps the most anticipated season in team history, when Hernández and Max Muncy homered in the eighth inning.

Hernández is tied for second in the majors with three home runs, one behind teammate Mookie Betts. His solo home run cut the Dodgers’ deficit to 4-3. After Chris Taylor walked — for the third consecutive plate appearance — Muncy hit a 420-foot home run to deliver the tying and winning runs.

Muncy turned toward the Dodgers dugout in animated celebration, then turned back around to trot around the bases.

On the day after the Dodgers’ sluggers rallied from three runs down to tie, they rallied from four runs down to win.

“They definitely keep you in the game,” Dodgers starting pitcher Gavin Stone said, “no matter how many runs you give up. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31, 2024: Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) reacts.

Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a ground-rule double in the sixth inning. Teoscar Hernández celebrates after hitting a solo home run for the Dodgers in the eighth inning. Dodgers starting pitcher Gavin Stone delivers during the fifth inning. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Reliever Nabil Crismatt, in his Dodgers debut, earned his first major league victory in two years. Daniel Hudson, who suffered season-ending knee injuries in each of his last two years, recorded the save for the Dodgers.

The sloppiness the Dodgers exhibited Sunday could be cause for concern.

In the fifth inning, Stone was unable to field a dribbler past the mound, and the ball went for an infield single, and first baseman Freddie Freeman was unable to catch a pop foul that landed near his feet.

In the sixth inning, with the Cardinals already up 2-0, Stone walked the leadoff batter, and the Dodgers removed him after 85 pitches. Reliever Alex Vesia walked two more, then hit a batter to force home a run. Catcher Austin Barnes committed interference on what would have been a third strike to Paul Goldschmidt, and the Cardinals scored another run for a 4-0 lead.

Read more: ⚾ Dodgers box score

The Dodgers’ come-from-behind victory was special to Muncy, who came off the bench to deliver the winning hit. Muncy noted the Dodgers wore down the Cardinals to the point where St. Louis had to use its top left-handed reliever Friday and Saturday, and so he did not pitch Sunday.

“That made it a little bit of an easier at bat for me,” Muncy said. “It’s just something that kind of goes unnoticed to a lot of people, but it’s something we take a lot of pride around here.”

Muncy said he still was not 100% after contracting a virus and losing nine pounds as the Dodgers prepared for their season-opening series in South Korea.

“I think a lot of the team right now is feeling pretty sick just from those long flights,” he said, “and getting back home and the weather that we’ve had. It’s been a little unusual for L.A., but you just have to battle through it.”

St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Brendan Donovan, left, and shortstop Masyn Winn can't catch a blooper hit.

The battle was won Sunday, which prompted Hernández to consider whether he had ever played on a team with so much power. He could think of only one: the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays, led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with 48 home runs and Marcus Semien with 45. Hernandez hit 32, Bo Bichette hit 29, and George Springer hit 22.

“And there was another guy, but I forget right now,” Hernandez said. There were so many guys. Randal Grichuk hit 22 too, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit 21.

The Dodgers could be like that.

“It’s been fun to be here,” Hernandez said, “and be part of this team.”

Ohtani looking for first home run

  • Ohtani, who hit one home run every 11.3 at-bats for the Angels last season, has no home runs in his first 26 at-bats for the Dodgers.

  • Barnes, who went hitless in his first 18 at-bats last season, singled in his first at-bat this season.

  • In his first minor league rehabilitation start, Walker Buehler gave up four runs in 3⅓ innings for triple-A Oklahoma City, striking out two and averaging 94 mph over 54 pitches. Roberts said Buehler probably would need to reach 90 pitches — and make three more minor league starts — before the Dodgers consider activating him. Buehler last pitched for the Dodgers on June 10, 2022; he had his second Tommy John surgery that August.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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