LOS ANGELES -- Failing to sign free agent Bryce Harper over the winter couldn’t have worked out better for the Dodgers so far.
They have plenty of left-handed power with Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, the latter three joining right-handed hitting Enrique Hernández to slug four homers Friday night in a 6-3 win over Harper and the Phillies in a matchup between the two best teams in the National League.
With Kenta Maeda pitching six solid innings to raise his record to 7-2 and Kenley Jansen getting the final out for his 17th save, the Dodgers went 19-7 in May, are 39-19 on the season for the best record in the National League, have an 8 1/2-game lead in the division and for the first time since 1978, they enter the month of June 20 games above .500. They are on pace to win 109 games.
And they are lethal against opposing right-handed starting pitching (29-11) because of those nasty lefty bats.
“We’re clicking on all cylinders,” said Seager, who was the last cylinder to click after knocking off the rust following elbow and hip operations last year.
The 2016 Rookie of the Year Award winner and two-time All-Star was batting only .225 with two homers on May 11. Since then, he’s hitting a much more Seager-like .305 with five homers. His was the third long ball allowed by Phillies starter Jake Arrieta, two batters after Pederson’s 445-foot blast led off the fifth inning and broke a 2-2 tie.
“I’m feeling better at the plate, for sure,” said Seager. “It was hit-or-miss at the beginning. I’ve gotten more comfortable, able to repeat it and not lose it. Just reps.”
Pederson -- who figured to be traded to the White Sox if the Dodgers had succeeded in signing Harper -- plays almost exclusively against right-handed pitching and punishes every mistake. He has 17 home runs, only three behind Bellinger’s team high, and in his last 11 games he is batting .486 with four homers and nine RBIs. His .662 slugging percentage and 1.037 OPS trail only Bellinger’s .749/1.213 on the team. The projected 445-foot home run distance, per Statcast, tied Russell Martin for the team’s longest of the year.
Muncy’s homer in the third inning followed a Pederson infield single and was his 12th, but included his best bat flip of the season. After getting called up from Oklahoma City last April and coming out of nowhere to lead the club with 35 home runs, he’s back on that pace. He’s also hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games, batting .321 with four homers and seven RBIs in that span.
“Yeah, the offspeed wasn’t very sharp tonight,” said Arrieta. “That’s why I gave up 10 hits, seven singles and the three homers. I just wasn’t very sharp with the slider, changeup or the curveball. They were able to eliminate too many pitches and they did some damage. I get lefties out. You can’t miss middle-in with spin to power-hitting left-handed hitters. You just can’t do it. That’s what I did too many times tonight.”
Arrieta held Bellinger to a pair of singles in four at-bats, but that extended his hitting streak to eight games. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was attending son Cole’s high school graduation, but the lineup he left behind was stacked with lefties in the first six spots and they went a combined 8-for-17 against Arrieta.
And Harper? He hit a couple balls on the barrel, but went 0-for-4 and heard plenty of boos.