LOS ANGELES -- Before the top of the second inning on Tuesday, everyone in attendance at Dodger Stadium, with the help of a mariachi band, serenaded Freddie Freeman as the superstar celebrated his 34th birthday.
In the third, Freeman decided to keep the celebration going, smacking a two-run homer to left-center field. Just as he’s done countless times in his two seasons in Los Angeles, Freeman delivered when most needed.
Freeman went 4-for-5 with that homer to lead the Dodgers to an 11-2 win over the Padres, helping the club inch closer to the 10th National League West title in the past 11 seasons. It’s the fourth time Freeman has homered on his birthday in his career.
- Games remaining (18): vs. SD (1), at SEA (3), vs. DET (3), vs. SF (4), at COL (4), at SF (3)
- Standings update: The Dodgers (88-56) lead the D-backs (76-70) by 13 games in the National League West, but they trail the Braves (95-50) by 6 1/2 games for the No. 1 seed in the National League.
- Magic number: 4 to clinch a postseason berth, 5 to clinch the NL West
“You've got a four-deck stadium. It's the only one in baseball. You've got 50,000 people, every single night here,” Freeman said. “For them to go out of their way to make you feel good when you're doing your job, it means a lot. I do appreciate it. It does make you feel good inside and also just means you're doing your job pretty good. That's what I'm also happy about."
With Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mookie Betts stealing all the headlines -- and deservedly so -- for NL MVP, it’s easy to look past what Freeman has done this season. But when you take a glance, it’s even easier to see how impressive his ‘23 campaign has been.
Freeman leads the Majors with 83 extra-base hits, one shy of matching the Los Angeles record. He’s also just six hits away from getting to the 200 mark for the first time in his career, a number he has openly expressed wanting to reach. Freeman has also scored 121 runs this season, which is a new career high.
The 2020 NL MVP is doing all of that while being .09 points behind Luis Arraez for the NL batting title and starting all 144 games for the Dodgers at first base.
“I think if you look at Freddie’s career, a lot of it has gone unnoticed,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “There’s no self-promotion to his game and he just loves to compete. And he wins. When you talk about Most Valuable Players, for me, he’s right at the top of the conversation.”
As the Dodgers sort through a number of uncertainties before the end of the regular season and into October, Freeman and Betts are the two players they don’t have to worry about. But they know it needs to be more than a two-man show in order to win a World Series.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers saw some positive signs from Will Smith, who smacked a three-run homer, his first dinger in two weeks. Max Muncy, J.D. Martinez and Chris Taylor also added some offense.
Lance Lynn gave the Dodgers a much-needed quality start, allowing just two runs over seven innings. The veteran right-hander got into trouble early in the game, but was able to get out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the first unscathed. He also allowed just one run in a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the fourth.
“The last two were ugly. There’s no other way to say it,” Lynn said. “But offense did a great job giving me the lead, defense made great plays behind me. Bullpen needed it. So it was a good win all the way around.”
In the end, Lynn allowed two runs and struck out three over seven innings. With the Dodgers’ rotation still looking for answers, it was a welcome sight for the club to watch Lynn get back on track.
“It was just fun,” Freeman said in front of a locker full of balloons and cookies. “Just a good birthday."