PHOENIX -- On Thursday, the Dodgers were joined by a handful of pitchers -- notably Clayton Kershaw and Blake Treinen -- who are still rehabbing from their respective injuries.
The Dodgers are optimistic they’ll be at full strength at some point later in the season, but having the pitchers around served as a reminder of the quality of players the Dodgers haven’t had the luxury of using during the current stretch of 31 games in 30 days.
The two superstars continued their recent dominance at the plate, combining to go 7-for-10 with a homer and three doubles in the Dodgers’ 14-1 rout over the D-backs at Chase Field. With Betts and Freeman leading the charge in the 24-hit barrage, every starter for the Dodgers recorded at least two hits for just the second time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958. The Dodgers (30-14) also became the NL's first team to reach 30 wins this season.
“The last 10 days, we’ve been able to strike first and often and tack on runs, and Mookie and Freddie are a big part of that,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Those guys value the walk, so they’re always on base. They control the strike zone, and when you throw it in the strike zone, they can slug you. Just a deadly combination.”
Freeman and Betts finished first and second, respectively, in the 2020 NL MVP voting. They’re starting to show flashes of their performances during that abbreviated 60-game season, a scary sight for the rest of the league.
Freeman led the way on Thursday with his second four-hit performance of the season. He smacked his first homer since April 24 and finished with a season-high five RBIs. With two more doubles, the five-time All-Star tied Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson for the most doubles (18) through the Dodgers’ first 44 games of a season.
Freeman also leads the team with a .312 average and seven games with three or more hits. Justin Turner led the team with 10 such games last season. Freeman, who has played in every Dodgers game this season, has over 100 more to surpass that mark.
“These are the kind of nights where you just sit back and smile because these don’t happen very often,” Freeman said. “It’s nice to be a part of it.”
Perhaps the only person playing better than Freeman is Betts. With his fifth three-hit performance in May, Betts is 33-for-93 (.355) with nine homers and 24 RBIs this month. He has seen his season OPS jump from .720 to .978 over the last 23 games. His batting average has also spiked over .300 for the first time this season, and he has also scored at least one run in 13 consecutive starts.
“A lot of good quality at-bats all around,” Roberts said. “Mookie just continues to be out of this world.”
Kershaw is still a few weeks from returning to the mound as he works through another back issue. Treinen is at least a couple of months away. Tommy Kahnle’s timeline is a little cloudy until he begins throwing, but he’s expected to miss a good chunk of time. Andrew Heaney is progressing well in his rehab, throwing a 50-pitch bullpen session on Thursday.
Then there’s Max Muncy, who could potentially land on the injured list as he works through some discomfort in the left elbow that had a torn UCL just seven months ago.
Those are all players the Dodgers wish they had on the field during this stretch. At one point, there were questions whether they were going to be able to withstand the flurry of injuries. The answer has been a resounding yes, and that has all started with their two superstars at the top.
“It’s wild,” said Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner, referring to the performances of Freeman and Betts. “You lead off the game with back-to-back doubles with good pieces of hitting, too, hitting the ball the other way. We talk about it a lot lately, because they’ve been so good.”