LA bats perk up behind Kershaw for win No. 105

Rookie Vargas hits first big league homer; Smith and Thompson also go deep

September 25th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Outside of a couple of late rallies, it hasn’t been a week the Dodgers have come to expect. Los Angeles dropped two against Arizona, but it could’ve easily been worse if the bats didn’t come to life late in two games. That shaky performance carried over into a disappointing shutout loss to the Cardinals on Friday night.

Bad weeks are going to happen. It’s part of the 162-game grind. But as the Dodgers continue to build momentum heading into the postseason, manager Dave Roberts said his team needed to find a way to play better baseball.

Roberts got his wish on Saturday night as the Dodgers played more like themselves in a 6-2 win over the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium for their 105th victory. Los Angeles is now one shy of matching the franchise record for wins in a single season.

“What a difference a day makes,” Roberts said. “Much better tonight. We played a clean baseball game.”

set the tone once again for the Dodgers, allowing two runs and striking out seven over six innings. It was the fourth consecutive quality start for Kershaw, who has allowed two or fewer runs in all five of his starts since coming back from his second stint on the injured list on Sept. 1.

At one point Kershaw threw 24 consecutive first-pitch strikes. He also punched out five of the first 11 batters he faced. And in what might be the last battle between two likely future Hall of Famers, Kershaw retired Albert Pujols twice, while Pujols got the left-hander with a single in his last at-bat.

“That’s a good team over there. They swing the bat really well, a lot of right-handed power that are really swinging the bat well,” Kershaw said. “I gave up a lot of hits tonight, which I’m not happy about. The homer obviously wasn’t great. But overall it was OK. The guys put up a lot of runs early and we got back in the win column.”

Watching Kershaw continue his stellar form was one of the many bright spots for the Dodgers on Saturday. continued his hot hitting by smacking a solo homer in the first to get the Dodgers on the board.

and also had impressive swings as Thompson took left-hander Jordan Montgomery deep in the second and Vargas connected on his first Major League homer later that inning.

While Thompson has been a pleasant surprise, the Dodgers are going to need him to hit left-handed pitching in October. He’s been a reverse-split batter since joining the Dodgers, but the club is confident he’ll be able to turn things around against southpaws.

“I thought that was some of the best stuff I’ve had all year and I just got barreled up every time. They got me,” Montgomery said. “It’s hard trying to get outs [against the Dodgers]. I think I got barreled up, even on outs.”

Vargas, on the other hand, is making a case to be on the postseason roster as the last bat off the bench. The rookie has played left field and first base. His best position, however, is when he’s in the batter’s box. Vargas has struggled since getting the callup, but he could be an impact bat if he gets hot.

“I’m just enjoying the moment,” Vargas said. “It’s all part of the process. I’m still learning and I think the coaches and the staff, my teammates have helped me a lot in order for me to be ready for any moment.”

The Dodgers’ bullpen capped off the night with a dominant performance. Chris Martin, Evan Phillips and Tommy Kahnle, all of whom are going to get chances in the ninth with Craig Kimbrel out of the closer’s role, each tossed a scoreless inning in relief. It wasn’t a save situation, but it was Kahnle that got the ninth on Saturday.

“To kind of find the right lane for guys, I thought was good, and it played out great,” Robert said. “They all pitched well.”