The Dodgers have their two co-stars in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. They trust their ensemble of background, platoon-optimizing talent
Instead, when the club’s postseason campaign begins next month, it could be their supporting cast — and middle of the order bats Will Smith, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez most of all — that determines their October fate most.
“For us to do what we need to do, which is win 11 games in October, it needs to be more than the Mookie and Freddie show,” manager Dave Roberts said this week. “It can’t be [just them].”
Look no further than Friday’s 6-3 win in Seattle as to why.
In front of a lively T-Mobile Park crowd, against a talented Mariners team in the thick of the American League wild-card race, Betts reached base twice but neither scored nor drove in a run. Freeman went 0 for 3 with a hit by pitch, held hitless in back-to-back games for the first time in almost a month.
Instead, on a night they faced an All-Star rookie starter in George Kirby, the Dodgers (89-57) got their offense from other places.
Miguel Rojas hit a two-run homer in the fifth to erase the Mariners’ early one-run lead. James Outman added a solo blast in the eighth for his 20th home run of the season.
Most important, however, was the trio of Smith, Muncy and Martinez — which reached base a combined five times, drove in three runs and largely carried the team most of the way.
With the Dodgers leading 2-1 the top of the sixth, Smith was hit by a pitch, Muncy laced an RBI triple into the right field corner and Martinez smacked an RBI single to center to make it 4-1.
After the Mariners (81-66) chipped away later, getting back within one by scoring three times against the Dodgers’ own rookie starter, Bobby Miller, in 5 ⅔ innings, it was the middle part of the L.A. order that delivered again in the eighth, with Martinez lining a critical two-out, two-strike single the other way to score an insurance run.
Friday’s game offered other potential October glimpses for the Dodgers, whose magic number to clinch the National League West is now two.
Miller struck out seven in a stressful 91-pitch outing, experiencing the kind of high-pressure environment he’ll encounter as — according to Roberts’ pregame comments — the Dodgers’ likely Game 1 or Game 2 playoff starter.
The team used the core of its bullpen, turning to Caleb Ferguson and Brusdar Graterol to escape sixth and seventh inning jams, respectively, before closing things out with scoreless frames from Ryan Brasier in the eighth and Evan Phillips in the ninth.
Still, the most important playoff previews came courtesy of the Dodgers’ middle three hitters, who provided the kind of high-leverage production that can overcome pitching deficiencies, prop up an otherwise top-heavy lineup, and just maybe prolong the club’s upcoming postseason run.