Pages showing he can be 'big part' of Dodgers' plans

April 30th, 2024

PHOENIX -- This is what Dave Roberts was talking about.

Nine days ago, the Dodgers’ MVP trio of Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman reached base a total of 12 times only for the Dodgers to fall to the Mets and secure their third straight losing series and their worst homestand in years. Roberts chalked it up to a bad week and said he expected the bottom of the order to find its groove and the Dodgers to right the ship.

Message received and response delivered.

On Monday at Chase Field, rookie delivered three RBIs from the eight-hole as the Dodgers defeated the D-backs, 8-4, for their seventh win in eight games, all but one victory coming during this three-city, nine-day road trip.

Joining Pages in picking up another shaky start by James Paxton (five walks and four runs in six innings) was literally the entire lineup, which turned in the Dodgers’ first zero-strikeout game since Aug. 28, 2006, and the first in the history of Chase Field. (There were four such games in MLB in 2023 -- including one called in the sixth due to rain -- but none before that until 2017.)

“A lot of competitive at-bats,” Roberts said. “Yeah, 18 years, we've seen a lot of baseball games since that's happened. I just think you got to give the players all the credit as far as winning pitches, fighting to move the ball forward. … Top to bottom, just really, really good job.”

Those competitive at-bats helped the Dodgers cash in with a four-run fifth inning that built a 6-1 lead. After Teoscar Hernández opened the rally with a two-run ground-rule double into the pool area in right-center, Pages added a two-run double down the third-base line.

“My main focus is just to help the team win,” Pages said via an interpreter. “… We prepared for the game, we followed the game plan, just focused on getting pitches in the zone and putting the ball in play.”

Pages, L.A.'s No. 3 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 93 overall, was called up on April 16 after hitting .371 with five homers in his first 15 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Dodgers were looking for an offensive spark and a solid replacement in center field for Jason Heyward, who has been on the injured list since April 3 and has yet to resume baseball activities.

So far, so good.

“For a young player to come in and make an impact like that, it’s been great,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of talk about the bottom part of this order, but each one of those guys have gotten a little bit better and Andy has certainly been a big part of that.”

Roberts was especially effusive about the high baseball IQ and maturity Pages has shown this early in his big league career.

“At the plate, he hunts pitches, he understands sequencing, he can hit to all fields,” Roberts said. “These are things he does that veterans don’t do or aren’t willing to do or adjustments they’re not willing to make. So for a young ballplayer, it’s really impressive.”

That approach showed up early on Monday when Pages won a six-pitch battle with D-backs starter Tommy Henry in the second inning that resulted in a sac fly. It was one of several at-bats in which a Dodgers hitter fell behind in the count but ended up putting the ball in play or drawing a walk.

That plate discipline resulted in eight free passes compared to the zero K’s, as well as 12 balls put in play with an exit velocity of 100 mph or faster.

“Half of your at-bats come with two strikes in the big leagues,” Roberts said, “So there's got to be a definitive two-strike approach and you’ve got to have some bat-to-ball [skills]. You have to value that, and our guys do.”

After 12 big league games, Pages is batting .298 with two homers, five doubles and eight RBIs while locking down center field for a team that hadn’t been getting production from the position.

“There was a feeling that his skill set should play at the big league level, but you don’t know until you know,” Roberts said. “I think internally, we’re pretty excited that he’s performed the way he has so early on.”

Pages is looking to continue this hot start but isn’t looking too deep into the numbers. He’s keeping it simple.

“It’s still just baseball, you know?” he said. “I’m playing against the best players in the world, but they make mistakes, too. I’m just trying to take advantage and do the best I can.”