Big bats come to rescue again for Dodgers

Los Angeles rallies past Tampa Bay and has chance to win a measuring-stick series

May 28th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- With the starting pitching in the midst of its worst stretch of the season, a lot of the responsibilities over the past couple of weeks have fallen on the Dodgers’ potent offense.

It delivered once again as and led the Dodgers to a 6-5 comeback win over the Rays on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

“That was a gritty win,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “So much respect for this Tampa [Bay] team, the way they play. They don't give you anything. And for us to get a lead, and then lose it, and come back and fight back, scratch and claw, it was just overall a really good win. And now we have a chance to win the series.”

was reinstated from the bereavement list on Friday and got the start. After a stellar April, which helped him win National League Pitcher of the Month, Kershaw has uncharacteristically struggled in five starts in May. 

Kershaw got off to a strong start, tossing three scoreless innings thanks to a slider that was sharper than it had been over his past few starts. But in the fourth, Manuel Margot hit a two-run single off Kershaw, and Harold Ramírez tacked on with a two-run homer in the fifth.

The likely first-ballot Hall of Famer has a 5.55 ERA in May after posting a 1.89 ERA in April. Kershaw has also struggled getting deep into games, which has always been one of his strengths. He has pitched five innings or fewer in four of his past five starts. 

“Personally, it’s frustrating,” Kershaw said. “But today it felt great coming out. Got pretty inconsistent there. Walking guys on four pitches to start innings, falling behind -- just not something I’m used to doing and don’t want to get used to doing. I need to figure it out. Whether it’s mental -- I need to focus better -- or mechanical, I’m not sure. But I need to go back to the drawing board to figure it out.”

But as the Dodgers have done all month, the lineup was able to rescue a starting rotation that is missing Julio Urías and Dustin May.

had the hot bat early, a much-needed development for the Dodgers. Muncy was in a 2-for-27 slump coming into Saturday’s game, but he blasted a no-doubt homer off Tyler Glasnow to get Los Angeles on the board in the second. In the fourth, Muncy delivered again with an RBI double, and he later scored on a wild pitch.

Then in the seventh, it was time for Betts and Freeman to show, once again, why they’re two of the best players in the Majors. Betts drove in Miguel Rojas with a single to tie the game at 4. Betts is now 14-for-36 with 22 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season.

"I didn't know the numbers, but it just seems like if guys are on base, he's gonna put together a good at-bat, and there have been a number of lineouts too in those situations,” said Roberts. “That makes sense to me because he really locks in."

Freeman followed Betts’ heroics with an RBI double to put the Dodgers in front. Freeman is on a season-high 16-game hitting streak and leads the Majors with 20 doubles. Miguel Vargas added a solo homer in the eighth to give the Dodgers a key insurance run.

Then the Dodgers’ bullpen closed things out, though it got interesting in the ninth inning. Tampa Bay had the tying run just 90 feet away, but Caleb Ferguson was able to get Ramírez to ground out to second to close out the game.

“This was such a great team win,” Kershaw said.

The Dodgers have said they’ve been looking forward to this week. While it’s still May, they are getting a sense of how they stack up among the Majors’ best against the Braves and Rays. With Saturday’s win, they’ve guaranteed at least a .500 record against two of the best teams in MLB, and they could earn back-to-back series wins Sunday.

“I think playing these games is always fun, it’s tough,” Betts said. “We don’t need to be blowing everybody out because then October comes and we haven’t been in this position before, we may not know how to handle it. … It’s good to play all year and understand our identity.”