DENVER -- The Dodgers went from two runs down on Saturday to eight runs up against the Rockies in much the same way they've gone from nine games out of first place to only 2 1/2 games back -- in a hurry.It's easy to point to Joc Pederson's pair of
DENVER -- The Dodgers went from two runs down on Saturday to eight runs up against the Rockies in much the same way they've gone from nine games out of first place to only 2 1/2 games back -- in a hurry.
It's easy to point to Joc Pederson's pair of homers and four hits, Matt Kemp's ninth home run and a seemingly endless eight-run seventh inning that translated into a 12-4 blowout, the Dodgers' 12th win in the past 16 games.
But don't forget the running speed of the slowest Dodger on the team, Yasmani Grandal, whose hustle made the inning possible. Sometimes, it's the little things.
"It means we're playing good baseball and we've made up for a month and a half of not so good baseball," said Kemp, who threw Charlie Blackmon out at the plate from left field, started a second-inning rally with a single and slugged a two-run homer in the seventh-inning bonanza.
Kemp took a back seat to Pederson for offensive star of the game. Pederson went 4-for-5 with the two homers, plus he added a double and a single and scored a career-high four runs. It was his first multihomer game since Sept. 10, 2016, and it was viewed by his manager as documentation that Pederson is buying into an offensive adjustment that dates to his Minor League demotion last summer.
Pederson had only one home run this season coming into the game, and he said a decrease in his launch angle has not been by design.
"That's probably why I haven't been hitting home runs or slugging as much as I have in the past," he said. "I've missed some pitches this year, a lot of them, it was nice to connect on a few. I feel I've been having quality at-bats and just haven't been driving the ball in the air."
Pederson said erratic playing time disrupts hitting rhythm, but stressing over that only makes things worse.
"You can only put yourself in the best position to make the best of those opportunities," he said.
While Kemp homered in the seventh and Pederson singled, the most critical play was Grandal hustling down the line to beat shortstop Trevor Story's throw to first base and avoid a rally-killing double play. Chris Taylor scored from third base with the tie-breaking run. Kemp then followed with his homer, and seven consecutive Dodgers batters reached base.
"If he doesn't beat that out, we don't have that big inning and we fed off that," said Kemp. "Grandal knows he's not the fastest guy out there, but he's busting down the line and making something happen. He got a ribbie out of it, and we just went from there. One of those plays that was the turning point in the game."
In a game typical of Coors Field, there were several turning points. Rookie starter Walker Buehler, victimized by too many hits -- mostly soft -- ran up 33 pitches in a four-run second inning, then saved the bullpen by shutting down Colorado over the next three innings. Pedro Baez pitched the first of four scoreless innings by the bullpen for the win and Breyvic Valera drove in three runs.
The Dodgers, who have four of their five starting pitchers on the disabled list and an All-Star shortstop lost for the season, were nine games out of first place as recently as May 8.
"We were written off in April," manager Dave Roberts told reporters before the game.
Kemp's 44 career home runs against Colorado are the most among active players. The 21 at Coors Field tie Eric Karros and Sammy Sosa for second most by an opponent all-time, behind Barry Bonds' 26.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
According to Statcast™, Grandal's average sprint speed is 24.4 feet per second (MLB avg. is 27 feet per second). But he reached 26.1 feet per second to beat the play at first in a pivotal point of the eight-run seventh inning, bringing in the go-ahead run ahead of the Kemp homer.
HE SAID IT
"Playing for this team, we're going to play here a lot and it's something I'm going to have to learn. It's big. And balls fall in. And those guys are good hitters. You can't go out and dominate every time." -- Buehler, charged with four runs in five innings, on learning to deal with the Denver altitude and pitching at Coors Field
Alex Wood, who has been battling hamstring cramps, gets the start for the Dodgers in Sunday's 12:10 p.m. PT series finale against the Rockies and Chad Bettis. Wood is the only member of the Opening Week rotation who is not currently on the disabled list. He is 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA in five career starts at Coors Field.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.