LOS ANGELES — After four long months, the Dodgers are back in first place in the National League West.
Los Angeles pieced together a rally in the eighth to come from behind against the Braves and secure a series sweep with a 4-3 win on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. Paired with the Giants’ loss to the Brewers, the Dodgers now have a half-game lead atop the NL West standings.
“It’s a start. We’re getting there,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think that we just got to continue to play good baseball. There’s a lot of baseball left, and I just like the way our guys are just so resilient and pick each other up.”
Despite getting an early lead with Max Scherzer on the mound as he tossed six scoreless innings, the Dodgers needed to rally against Atlanta’s bullpen after Brusdar Graterol surrendered a two-run homer in the seventh.
The moment that thrust Los Angeles back into first place came with AJ Pollock at the plate, facing reliever Chris Martin, and Justin Turner on second base. Pollock singled through the hole at shortstop, and Turner sped around the bases, sliding head first into home.
“I was just trying to see something a little bit up [in the strike zone],” said Pollock. “It wasn’t pretty. Just wanted to get the ball through the infield and watch JT fly around the bases like he always does, and it worked out.”
It was a slow climb back to first place, with the Dodgers spending 90 days in second and 27 days in third, but they are back in familiar territory. With 28 games left in the regular season, three of the most pivotal matches will come this weekend against the Giants, the team they just managed to surpass.
The Braves helped the Dodgers over the past weekend when they took two out of three against San Francisco, edging Los Angeles closer to first. The favor, however, was not returned, as the Dodgers secured their 11th series sweep of the year.
“It feels great,” Pollock said of the Dodgers being back in first place. “Obviously, we’re focusing on us and doing what we have to do and trying not to worry too much about what’s going on outside of this locker room, but we knew if we took care of business that we’d be at the top.”
The club went all in at the Trade Deadline, and those acquisitions played a role in the win. Trea Turner scored the tying run in the eighth that kept the rally rolling for Pollock’s go-ahead hit, while Scherzer put up his third scoreless start since joining the Dodgers’ rotation.
The veteran right-hander at one point sat down 11 batters in a row as he tallied nine strikeouts without allowing a walk. He needed only 76 pitches through six frames, with a 42 percent called strike plus whiff rate, but his outing was cut short due to right hamstring tightness.
“I didn’t injure it, I just knew it was tight,” said Scherzer. “I’ve had this happen in the past. There’s times where this happens and you just got to work around it. You might not be able to step on every fastball in the same way, but you can still pitch, and when I’ve been in those situations before, you just stay with your game plan and just try to execute around that.”
Both Scherzer and Roberts said that the veteran hurler is expected to make his next scheduled start, which will be on Monday in St. Louis during the Dodgers’ four-game series against the Cardinals. Scherzer felt the tightness during the pregame warmups at the start of the first inning, but said he was going to go as long as he could without putting himself or the team in jeopardy.
If anything, Scherzer provided the Dodgers with the edge in the game with his conviction on the mound. Now, Los Angeles could have the advantage when the team arrives in San Francisco for one of the biggest series of the season. The Giants play the Brewers on Thursday, while the Dodgers have the day off. A Giants loss would mean the Dodgers enter their weekend series with a one-game lead, while a Giants win would have the two teams open the series tied for first.
“We know going into the Giants series that it’s gonna be a big series. We’re all looking forward to it,” Scherzer said. “Obviously, they’re a great team. You want to go out there and play your best against them. These are the moments that you live for … to have these types of opportunities to go out there and compete against the best. It should make for a great series.”