3 things we learned in Dodgers' series win vs. Yankees

June 11th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

LOS ANGELES -- If this past weekend’s series against the Yankees was a 2024 World Series preview, the Dodgers walked away feeling pretty good about themselves after taking two of three at Yankee Stadium.

From the atmosphere all weekend to the star power on the field (even with Yankees superstar Juan Soto sidelined with left forearm inflammation), the series between the two longtime cross-country rivals did not feel like your typical June matchup.

“I think both teams brought our best, and fortunately for us, we won the series,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “It was just a good environment all weekend. Good to show well against those guys. They’re a heckuva ball club.”

Before the start of the weekend series against the Yankees, there were some questions the Dodgers needed to answer. As good as they’ve been so far this season, nothing will matter unless they, at the very least, make it back to the World Series for the first time since 2020. Their big offseason, in which they spent over $1 billion in contracts, will only be a success based on what happens in October.

Let’s take a look at three things we learned from the Dodgers’ series win in New York.

Statement start from Yamamoto

In Japan's NPB, there was no doubt was the best pitcher in the league. He won three Most Valuable Player Awards and three Eiji Sawamura Awards, the league’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award.

But in the Majors, and even after signing a historic 12-year, $325 million contract this winter, Yamamoto still has a lot to prove. Though there’s comfort in his previous success, nobody knows how Yamamoto will react to certain situations in the Majors until he encounters them.

On Friday, Yamamoto delivered a loud statement to anyone who might doubt his ability. The Japanese right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings for the Dodgers, easily his most dominant performance this season. Don’t believe me? Just ask Aaron Judge.

“He signed the deal he did for a reason,” Judge said. “He’s a great pitcher. Besides having elite stuff, he’s got great command. I think that’s what we really noticed today. We’d get into hitter's counts, and he still wouldn’t give in to the heart of the plate. … He just kind of kept guys off balance and kept us on the ground.”

A big reason for Yamamoto’s success was an uptick in velocity. Yamamoto rejected the idea that it was because of added adrenaline. Instead, he said it was just having his mechanics in sync. Well, whatever it was certainly worked, as Yamamoto’s 19 hardest-thrown pitches of the season all came on Friday.

For the Dodgers to be at their best in October, they’ll need Yamamoto to be one of their top two starting pitchers. He’ll have to pitch in hostile environments. His biggest test will come in the postseason, but Friday’s start served as a good reminder of what he can do on the mound.

Teoscar is what the doctor ordered

Over the last three postseasons, finding a way to get the big hit has been the biggest struggle for the Dodgers. Their inability to hit with runners in scoring position is what sent them home in the National League Division Series each of the last two seasons.

With now in the mix, the Dodgers are confident it’ll be different this time. Hernández thrives in run-scoring opportunities, leading the Dodgers with 35 RBIs in RISP situations.

This past weekend against the Yankees, Hernández was arguably the best player on the field. He hit three homers, and in Friday's 2-1 win, he delivered a go-ahead, two-run double in the 11th inning. Not every player likes the big stage. Hernández, however, showed he’s at his best when the lights are bright.

Stars need to be stars

A lot of good things happened over the weekend, but it also served as a reminder that the Dodgers are going to need their superstars to play as such when it matters most.

and failed to do that last season, combining for just one hit in three games as the Dodgers were swept by the D-backs in the NLDS. For Betts, it was the first postseason of his career in which he was unable to record a hit. This weekend against the Yankees, Judge played like a superstar, hitting three homers against the Dodgers.

On the flip side, Betts (3-for-12, three walks), Freeman (2-for-10, three walks, two RBIs and (2-for-13, one walk, one RBI) were relatively quiet in the series. Ohtani hit a bloop double in his last at-bat on Sunday. Even more so than Betts and Freeman, all eyes will be on him this fall given he has never played in a postseason game.

Of course, this was only a series in June. The Dodgers still have a long way to go. But it was a good test to see where Los Angeles stands nearing the midway point of the season.