Freeman, with 5 RBIs, demonstrates LA's formula without Betts

June 22nd, 2022

CINCINNATI -- When the Dodgers assembled their lineup this spring, they knew that it would be one of the best in the league. But they hoped their true greatness would be able to withstand an inevitable injury to one of their best players. 

Los Angeles will be without Mookie Betts (right rib fracture) for a few weeks, so the club’s other stars will have to step up to replace his production. That was exactly the case in the Dodgers’ 8-2 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday. 

“Across the board, I thought we had some really good at-bats,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “We took walks when needed and put up a lot of hits tonight.”

Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith -- the top three batters in the lineup -- combined to go 9-for-13 with a homer and seven RBIs. The rest of the lineup chipped in as well, as seven of the nine starters recorded at least one hit. It was one of the best offensive efforts of the year for the Dodgers, who have surprisingly struggled at the plate over the last few weeks. 

“We haven’t been swinging the bats very good for a couple of weeks,” Freeman said. “It’s not just situational hitting. It’s hitting in general. This is a hard game. … It was nice to get a day off, a couple days off in the past week, and come out and have a good start to the road trip.”

Turner and Smith have been swinging a hot bat lately, but Freeman has broken out of a mini-slump over the last week. Freeman is currently riding a five-game hitting streak, going 9-for-20 with a homer among four extra-base hits, including a two-run double and a bases-clearing triple on Tuesday. 

The power hasn’t been there this season for Freeman, but he and the Dodgers have remained confident that the former MVP will have a stretch where baseballs start dropping for extra-base hits. 

“He’s a tough out. He’s got a quick bat,” said Reds starter Tyler Mahle. “I don’t think there is a pitch that I throw and it’s like, ‘OK, he’s going to be super off balance.’ I feel like he’s never off balance, at least for me. Maybe it’s an easy at-bat for him against me, I don’t know, but I just feel like he’s getting good swings off and on time and stuff.”

Freeman’s ability to control the strike zone is a strength. That skill goes up a notch when he comes up with runners on base. With runners on base this season, Freeman came into Tuesday’s game hitting .371 with 18 extra-base hits and just 12 strikeouts. On Tuesday, the five-time All-Star went 3-for-3 with runners on base, while his lone out came with the bases empty as the second batter of the game. 

“I think those premier middle-of-the-order guys, their DNA is to really, really lock in with guys in scoring position,” Roberts said. “I think -- not to say he gives anything up when guys aren’t in scoring position or on base -- but there’s just that extra layer of finding a way of putting the ball in play, and those numbers don’t lie. He’s elite at that, and has been his entire career.”

With Freeman leading the way, the Dodgers recorded 17 hits. They also put together improved situational at-bats, which has been a point of emphasis over the last few weeks. Roberts made it a point to bring up the fourth-inning situation in which Eddy Alvarez advanced Justin Turner to third base with a sacrifice bunt, the team’s first of the year. Gavin Lux finished off the sequence with a sacrifice fly to give Los Angeles a 4-2 lead.

Tuesday’s win was a good representation of the multiple ways the Dodgers can attack opponents. They have Trea Turner, Freeman and Smith to overwhelm teams with talent. But they can also apply constant pressure with a deep lineup. It hasn’t always been consistent, but they got their nine-game road trip started off right. 

“Small things like that are really good,” Turner said. “I think that’s what this lineup is about, is guys doing their job. And we got a lot of really good players, but sometimes we’re gonna have to do small things to win ballgames.”