Dodgers' depth pieces step up: 'It felt good to deliver'

April 24th, 2024

WASHINGTON -- Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Shohei Ohtani, who casually hit a homer with a 118.7 mph exit velocity, are good enough to beat most teams on any given night. That’s just how good the Dodgers’ trio of former Most Valuable Player Award winners is.

But for the Dodgers to be at their best, they’re going to need the rest of the lineup to support their star group. In Los Angeles’ 4-1 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, Kiké Hernández, and were up to the task, each delivering with big RBI hits.

“It’s big, I’m sure, for their confidence,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “We’re going to have a lot of people on base. So for those guys, they’ve got to have the ability to take good at-bats and be able to get a base hit when needed.”

Hernández got the Dodgers’ offense jumpstarted with an RBI single in the sixth to tie the game at 1. Instead of going to a lefty in that situation, Roberts stuck with Hernández against right-hander Derek Law. Hernández rewarded that decision with the knock.

In the eighth, it was Outman and Rojas’ turn to make their impact. Coincidentally enough, Roberts did end up going with Outman over Hernández against power right-hander Hunter Harvey. That decision also worked out for the Dodgers, as Outman hit an RBI double to give Los Angeles the lead. Rojas then followed with an RBI single to give the Dodgers some more cushion.

“For me, it’s not necessarily the slug with those guys,” Roberts said. “It’s conducting at-bats and keeping the line moving, getting a hit when needed. I can’t say enough about those guys’ at-bats tonight.”

It was a big night for Outman in particular, given some of his struggles at the plate to start the season. Outman was key in the Dodgers’ lineup in 2023, finishing third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. But the start of this season has been an adventure for Outman, who was striking out at an alarming rate.

The struggles at the plate led to the Dodgers going with a platoon in center field, which is why Outman wasn’t in the starting lineup. Los Angeles, however, has been adamant that Outman’s swing is starting to get on track. Outman proved the club right on Tuesday.

“Yeah, it felt good to deliver, for sure,” Outman said. “I think it’s just a long season, and it didn’t start off exactly how I would’ve liked. But you know, it’s a long season, and the work has to be put in whether it’s going well or it’s not. Just kind of plugging away.”

It has also been a rocky stretch for the Dodgers’ bullpen to start the season, but the unit came up big Tuesday. With James Paxton going only 4 2/3 innings in another rocky start, it was the bullpen that had to keep the Nationals off the board.

Michael Grove, Alex Vesia, Daniel Hudson and Evan Phillips combined to toss 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

“It was great. It was great,” Roberts said. “I thought Alex was fantastic tonight. We’ve leaned on Michael in the last couple weeks to do an up-down, and Alex to do an up-down; that was really pivotal right there. We found a way to get out of that one. We got a little help on the bases there. But the bullpen was really good tonight.”

After a rocky homestand, the Dodgers have now put up back-to-back strong performances. It was the start of the road trip they needed, and they showed signs of a complete team and not just relying on a couple of players, which is when they’re at their best.