The game plan for the Dodgers facing a Brewers rookie making his debut Sunday was simple: Put the pressure on early. Make him work.
The Dodgers did that and then some, knocking grand slams off Alec Bettinger in each of the first two innings as part of a 16-4 rout of Milwaukee at American Family Field. The onslaught salvaged the series for Los Angeles after dropping the first three games and provided a glimmer of hope that a struggling offense might be ready to turn the corner.
“In baseball, there's ebbs and flows. And today, we broke out big time,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I wish we could have spread those runs out across the last three days or week, but that's not the way baseball's played. But today, a lot of good stuff.”
It started with small ball -- very small. Baseball is a game of inches, and when Matt Beaty hit an infield grounder with the bases loaded and two outs in the first, Bettinger’s foot was about an inch off the bag while covering first base. Rather than escaping the inning unscathed, a run scored and AJ Pollock came up with the bases still loaded.
"That changes an inning,” Brewers catcher Jacob Nottingham said. “If he’s out, [Bettinger] gets to take a deep breath and just take everything in and relax on the bench; kind of process it and slow everything down. But it didn’t happen that way.”
Pollock then drove a 1-1 slider 425 feet to center field for his second career grand slam, and first since Sept. 25, 2015, when he was a member of the D-backs.
Beaty got another chance with the bases loaded the following inning, and this time, he hit the ball quite a bit farther, knocking a first-pitch slider just over the wall in right field for his first career grand slam. It marked the fourth time in franchise history that the Dodgers hit two grand slams in one game -- most recently, Shawn Green and Adrián Beltré did so on May 21, 2000, against the Marlins.
“It's just confidence that's built up,” said Beaty of his torrid production (9-for-17) since returning from the alternate training site on April 24. “You start to have more success, you get more confident, feel good in the box, feel comfortable.”
When it was over, Pollock had driven in eight runs and Beaty seven, making it the first time that two Dodgers had seven-plus RBIs in the same game and just the sixth time overall since 1900.
Did Beaty and Pollock make a rivalry out of their dueling RBI counts?
“I wouldn’t say rivalry. I mean, I loved him,” said Pollock. “He was getting on base all day. He did clear the bases that one time in front of me. But now, I'm happy for him. He's been swinging a good bat for us.”
Beaty and Pollock, the Nos. 6 and 7 hitters, respectively, were responsible for driving in all but one of the Dodgers’ runs, with No. 8 hitter Gavin Lux providing the last one via an infield single in the eighth.
“The thing about our club, when we're really good, is the length,” said Roberts. “Today, the bottom half really picked us up. That’s just really important for any really good lineup and that's kind of a marker for our club.”
The big lead gave Roberts a chance to remove Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner to get them some additional rest. It also gave plenty of breathing room to starter Julio Urías, who worked seven innings on a day when the Dodgers truly needed some length, following two straight bullpen games.
“The last week or so, we've been putting good at-bats together and it hasn't been falling our way. It was nice to see it go our way,” Urías said through an interpreter. “Hopefully, we can put some games together where things will go in our direction this time.”
Indeed, the Dodgers will need to build off Sunday’s breakout performance. They put up eight runs against the Reds on Wednesday and that didn’t put an end to their offensive woes. But in a complete team effort that saw the bats notch 18 hits, the lineup showed signs of being in sync in a way that the Dodgers haven’t really seen for a couple of weeks now.
“It's good to know that we have it in there,” said Pollock. “You go game after game where you're getting one or two runs and to have that explosion ... I think just knowing we have that in the bag -- any day we can explode like that [enables] a good mindset. We'll see. Every day is different. We got to have fun with this one, but we’ll turn the page and get after it tomorrow.”