'It's fun': Pollock keeps NL West race tight

Former D-back homers, contributes to eye-popping outfield defense

September 25th, 2021

PHOENIX -- With no regular season head-to-head games remaining against the Giants, the National League West will ultimately be decided by which team handles its business best against teams it’s supposed to beat. 

The Dodgers have feasted against the D-backs all season long and will have to continue that over the weekend. They got off to a good start with a 4-2 win in the series opener on Friday at Chase Field.

With the win, the Dodgers stayed one game behind the Giants, who beat the Rockies, in the NL West race with eight games remaining in the regular season. The Dodgers can become the second team to 100 wins this season with another win on Saturday.

“I’m sure they’re looking at us saying, ‘These guys keep winning.’ And we’re looking at them and saying, ‘These guys keep winning, too,’” said Dodgers outfielder of the Giants. “Both teams are winning the games they’re supposed to win. It’s fun.”

The Dodgers wasted no time getting their offense going, scoring three runs off Humberto Castellanos in the second inning. Pollock, who spent the first seven seasons of his career as a member of the D-backs, continued to torment his former team, capping off the inning with a two-run shot.

Pollock hasn’t played for the D-backs since 2018, but he seems to feel right at home whenever he plays them. With a 1-for-4 performance on Friday, Pollock is 20-for-42 (.476) with four homers and 11 RBIs against Arizona this season.

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” Pollock said about his success against the D-backs. “It’s familiar, the backdrop feels like home; it was home for six years. I’ve always liked hitting here, but yeah, I can’t put a finger on exactly why.”

Pollock, who had a two-to-three week timetable to return from a right hamstring injury, is back in the Dodgers’ lineup earlier than expected. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts admitted that when the injury happened on Sept. 4, he thought Pollock’s regular season was over. The Dodgers are happy that wasn’t the case, as Pollock has been a huge boost for a Dodgers offense that still hasn’t been able to find consistency all season long. Since returning from the injured list, he’s 3-for-10 with three extra-base hits.

“We’re happy to have him back,” Roberts said.

While the offense stalled over the last seven innings, the Dodgers’ pitching staff continued its impressive run prevention. Starter Tony Gonsolin wasn’t spectacular, but he gave Los Angeles just what it needed, allowing just two runs over five innings. Following Gonsolin, the Dodgers leaned on four relievers -- Alex Vesia, Corey Knebel, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen -- to shut the door.

The Dodgers’ pitching staff did get plenty of help from their defense, particularly the outfield. Pollock robbed Josh Rojas of extra bases with a leaping grab at the wall in the first inning. Gavin Lux, who was starting in just his second big league game in center field, also kept the D-backs off the board with a spectacular running grab to take away extra bases from Kole Calhoun in the fourth inning. Lux had a 25 percent catch probability, according to Statcast.

“Unbelievable,” Roberts said of Lux’s catch. “That was a heck of a play. Sheer foot speed, but the angle, the line to the baseball, that was a big play. Today, we scored enough to win, but the defense -- outfield defense, in particular -- carried us.”

In the ninth, Chris Taylor continued the defensive theme. Taylor, who has been dealing with a neck injury over the last few weeks, is clearly feeling much better as he made back-to-back diving catches in the ninth inning. The first catch robbed David Peralta of at least a double.

“Yeah, I’m not sure if I’m making either one of those plays,” said Pollock, who was replaced by Taylor in left field. “We might still be playing if Chris Taylor is not in the game, he made some unbelievable plays.”

The Dodgers were coming off an emotional win Thursday, one they believe can give them the necessary momentum to eventually jump ahead of the Giants in the division. But they have to keep winning. They took care of that on Friday.