Heaney keeps proving the skeptics wrong

Dodgers ride 7-run 4th to sweep, 6th straight win despite a struggling Mookie

April 18th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers won 58 games at Dodger Stadium in 2021. They’ve picked up right where they left off.

Los Angeles opened up its first homestand of the season with a four-game sweep against Cincinnati following a 9-1 win on Sunday. It marked the Dodgers' first four-game sweep of the Reds since 1975, and they have won six consecutive games overall.

“It’s good to be playing good baseball,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “We obviously didn’t get off to a good start in Colorado, result-wise, but seeing the lineup kind of scratching the surface of its potential, top to bottom and once everybody gets going and settles in, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Here are three takeaways from the Dodgers’ impressive sweep:

Heaney caps off stellar weekend by staff
When the Dodgers signed Andrew Heaney to a one-year, $8.5 million deal in November, the move was received with skepticism. Even some rival executives weren’t sure what the Dodgers saw in the left-hander, who posted a 5.83 ERA in 30 appearances last season.

The Dodgers, however, liked Heaney’s strong fastball and believed they could help the lefty improve his breaking ball. That was the focus throughout spring. After a successful bullpen session in Colorado before his first start, Heaney’s ability to throw the new breaking ball is evident. So far, the experiment has gone smoothly through two games.

After striking out 11 over six scoreless innings on Sunday, Heaney has not only been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers, but the left-hander has been dominant. Heaney’s performance has helped ease the mind of the Dodgers, who had some question marks in the back end of the rotation. The 11 strikeouts were the most in a game by Heaney since he punched out 14 on Aug. 20, 2019, with the Angels.

“It’s growing each time,” Heaney said about his confidence. “It was my first time throwing it in Minnesota and it was kind of hard to feel your hand and feel the ball a little bit, so I think coming here and having a warm day and feeling better with it, it really felt good today.”

With the six scoreless innings from Heaney, the Dodgers’ four starters in the series allowed just two runs over 20 2/3 innings of work. Through nine games, the Dodgers’ rotation has a 1.71 ERA, the second-lowest in the Majors behind the Mets (1.07).

The big inning
With the shortened spring, not every player in the Dodgers’ lineup is locked in at the plate. That hasn’t stopped them from several explosive innings so far this season.

The Dodgers’ offense suffocated Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle during a seven-run fourth inning. In that frame, they recorded three doubles, three singles and drew two free passes. Freddie Freeman, who led the way with a 4-for-5 day, recorded two of his singles in the inning.

While the seven-run explosion was the team’s largest in a single inning this season, the big inning has become nearly a guarantee for the Dodgers. They have scored at least five runs in an inning in four of their first nine games. On Thursday, the Dodgers used a six-run eighth inning to beat the Reds, 9-3.

“Hitting is contagious,” Freeman said. “That just shows what this lineup is capable of doing. Every guy is pretty much a game-changer in this lineup. When you see good at-bats, you just want to keep it going. We were able to do that a lot in that one inning.”

Trea Turner’s Majors-best 27-game hitting streak came to an end after the star shortstop went 0-for-4. He had an exit velocity of 105 mph in a lineout to shortstop Brandon Drury in the eighth.

Waiting on Mookie
The Dodgers’ lineup has shown its prowess, and that’s without performing up to his standards. After going 0-for-3 with two walks on Sunday, Betts’ batting average dipped to .206. His OPS is down to .554.

Perhaps most surprising is that Betts is not hitting the ball hard. Coming into Sunday’s game, he ranked in the 14th percentile in hard-hit rate. Betts has particularly struggled against fastballs, hitting .200 against the heater.

“I just think he’s in between, I really do,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s balls that I think are in the hitting zone that he fouls off or misses or he flies out to right field. Or he gets out in front. I just think he’s sort of in between. But he’s been there before and I’m sure he’ll work himself out of it.”