NEW YORK -- Stellar pitching and starpower on offense has been the formula that has carried the Dodgers to one of the most successful decades in franchise history.
This season, the stars have shined bright almost nightly. The pitching, on the other hand, has struggled at times, but has started to show plenty of signs of progress over the last few weeks.
In the Dodgers’ 5-1 win over the Mets on Saturday at Citi Field, that formula was back on display as Mookie Betts led the club offensively with a 4-for-4 night at the plate, which included his 27th homer of the season, and the Los Angeles bullpen tossed four scoreless innings to help the club win its sixth straight game.
“A lot of credit to the guys,” Betts said. “We’re playing for each other, we take the info and we have a really good camaraderie, which I’m sure you’ve seen. We show up ready to play.”
Betts got the scoring started for the Dodgers in the third inning, launching a solo homer against Mets starter Kodai Senga, who was otherwise able to neutralize the Los Angeles offense over six innings. While Betts has shown much more power this season, his 27th homer was a little bit different than the other 26.
This time, Betts showed off his opposite-field power, just getting the ball over the right-field wall at Citi Field. It was the first opposite-field homer of the season for Betts. The 2018 AL MVP capped off his night with his fourth hit, a single in the ninth, and came around to score to give the Dodgers some late insurance.
"The Home Run Derby, the All-Star break didn't cool him off,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He carried us tonight."
For about a year Betts has talked about wanting to be a more consistent force at the plate. His highs have been extraordinary, making it easy to see why he’s a generational talent. His lows haven’t been nearly as bad as he would say, but certainly not up to the standard Betts has set for himself throughout his career.
Since May 1, Betts has found that consistency, hitting .308 with 23 homers all while striking out just 40 times in 286 plate appearances. In 10 games in July, Betts’ production has been other-worldy, hitting .421 with five homers and nine RBIs. While there’s a lot of baseball left to be played, that level of production has now inserted Betts in every discussion for National League Most Valuable Player.
“Yeah, for sure,” Betts said when asked if he feels more consistent. “It’s more just the quality of at-bat and solid contact, swinging at the right pitches; you can’t control if you get hits or not. I feel like I’m doing those three things and maximizing my chances of getting hits and that’s really what I want to be consistent with.”
While Betts stole the show offensively, the Dodgers’ bullpen took care of the rest.
Tony Gonsolin got the start for the Dodgers, but didn’t have his best command, allowing nine hard-hit balls against the Mets’ lineup. Despite that, it was still a surprise to Gonsolin that Roberts was pulling him after five innings and only 54 pitches. Roberts’ reasoning, however, was that Gonsolin’s stuff was diminishing over the last few innings and the Dodgers had their top relievers ready to be deployed.
Alex Vesia got the first assignment, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the sixth. Brusdar Graterol followed by working around a leadoff walk to toss a scoreless seventh. In the eighth, with the Dodgers holding on to a one-run lead, things got a little more interesting.
Tommy Pham led off the frame with a walk against Caleb Ferguson. Francisco Alvarez followed with a single, but Chris Taylor’s ability to not let the ball roll all the way to the wall didn’t allow Pham to score from first. Instead, the Mets had runners at the corners with one out. That’s when Ferguson found his best stuff.
Ferguson got Mark Canha on the first pitch. He then struck out Brett Baty and Luis Guillorme to end the threat. In the ninth, Evan Phillips took care of the rest.
“I think everybody's just in their lanes and when their name is called, everybody does their job,” Ferguson said. “You know the guy coming in behind you also has your back.”