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Verdugo's 3 RBIs soothe Dodgers' Belly ache

Young outfielder steps up with Bellinger nursing bruised knee
@kengurnick
April 17, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- At every previous professional level, Alex Verdugo has made the game look easy, and nothing seems to have changed now that he’s a Major Leaguer. With the Dodgers’ lineup missing Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner on Tuesday night as they nursed bruises, Verdugo drove in three runs

LOS ANGELES -- At every previous professional level, Alex Verdugo has made the game look easy, and nothing seems to have changed now that he’s a Major Leaguer.

With the Dodgers’ lineup missing Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner on Tuesday night as they nursed bruises, Verdugo drove in three runs and Joc Pederson added another two-run homer in a 6-1 win over the Reds.

At age 23, Verdugo is in what will be his first full season if he can come close to keeping up his current pace. He’s batting .375 with three homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.115 OPS, and he’s started only seven games because he’s behind Bellinger, Pederson, A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor on the outfield depth chart.

He’s making the biggest adjustment a young player must make: accepting a part-time role when you have been, and think you should be, a full-time player.

“Control what I can control,” said Verdugo, who had the first three-hit game of his career. “This is where you want to be. I’m playing for the Dodgers, one of the greatest teams of all time. I love this city, love the fan base, love everything here. It’s a dream come true.

“I see myself playing every day. Whether this year, next year, I don’t care. I see myself as an everyday player, and I carry myself that way. There’s no frustrations with it right now. We got this thing where we’re all-in on this team, on this journey to the World Series. Right now, I start sporadically. I’m all-in for this team.”

Verdugo’s first RBI on Tuesday night came on a two-out infield single in the first inning. He broke the game open in the seventh inning with a two-out, two-run double off left-hander Zack Duke after a double by Max Muncy and an intentional walk to Enrique Hernandez.

“It’s a slap in the face a little bit, that’s the way I think of it,” Verdugo said of the added motivation of the Reds walking Hernandez to get to him. “I understand it from a baseball aspect. First base is open, it’s a smart play, the baseball play. For me, I carry an extra chip on my shoulder. I want to make lefties pay and do damage, too. I want to be an all-around good hitter. I don’t want that to mean when lefties pitch, I don’t play.”

Manager Dave Roberts said Verdugo “likes that moment.”

“He brings a lot of energy and a lot of skill, and that moment never gets too big for him,” said Roberts. “We all understand when you’re not in there every day, it’s a tough role. But when you embrace a certain role and you’re prepared, it gives you the best chance to have success. I know he wants to be in there every day, thinks he’s an everyday player, and that’s great. But he doesn’t let that affect his mind at all.”

Meanwhile, Pederson, whose two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Dodgers a walk-off victory on Monday night, slugged a two-run homer in the second inning. He has homered in three straight games and five times in the last seven games. Four have come on the homestand, and he has a total of eight, one shy of the league lead that Bellinger shares with Christian Yelich.

Pederson’s home run also meant the Dodgers have homered in 31 consecutive home games dating to last Aug. 21, one shy of the 1999 Rockies’ MLB record.

Kenta Maeda (3-1) allowed one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings for the win, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced, while Tyler Mahle (0-1) took the loss. Maeda followed Ross Stripling and Clayton Kershaw for a third consecutive start into at least the seventh inning.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.