SAN DIEGO — When Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman became teammates before last season, both superstars knew they were going to be hitting atop the Dodgers’ lineup for at least a half-decade.
That reality has become a dream for the Dodgers and a nightmare for opposing teams. On Sunday, it was Freeman who led Los Angeles’ offensive outburst. On Monday afternoon, it was Betts’ turn to deliver the knockout blow, a grand slam to cap off an eight-run fourth inning in a 13-7 win over the Padres at Petco Park.
The Dodgers have hit 11 grand slams this season, matching the 2021 team for the franchise record. It was the sixth grand slam of Betts’ career.
“We just don’t give up,” Betts said. “We have to play all nine innings. Anything can happen at any given time, and we all know that. We’ve been around for a while, and the young guys are kind of taking to it. We have fun. That’s the main thing. We have fun playing the game.”
Many times this season, the Dodgers’ starting rotation has dug the team into a hole. That was the case once again when the Padres exploded for five runs in the third against right-hander Tony Gonsolin, jumping out to a 5-0 lead.
But as it’s done all season, the Dodgers’ potent offense bailed out Gonsolin, who allowed six runs on nine hits and one walk over six innings. It happened in the blink of an eye.
After not getting much going off Padres right-hander Seth Lugo through three innings, the Dodgers figured him out in the fourth in a big way. While Betts delivered the go-ahead slam, the eight-run outburst was a full-team effort.
David Peralta and Jason Heyward ripped key RBI doubles off Lugo to help the Dodgers chip away at the deficit. Kiké Hernández kept the inning going with a walk. James Outman, who went 4-for-4 and reached safely all five plate appearances to continue his impressive second half, singled. Up next, Miguel Rojas flared an RBI single to shallow center.
That all set the stage for Betts, who had punched out in his first two at-bats of the game. But after Lugo fell behind 3-0, he was forced to throw a heater in the zone to Betts, and the 2018 AL MVP didn’t miss it, blasting it over Juan Soto’s head in left-center field.
“I don’t know if it’s that I don’t like the green light, I just don’t typically like swinging on 3-0,” Betts said. “I still see myself as a leadoff hitter, and I’m supposed to get on base. Maybe that’s just kind of what’s been ingrained in me. But in that situation, I mean, especially with the momentum, I just felt we needed to try and score as many points as possible, and that was a good time to swing.”
Coming into the 2023 season, there were some questions about the Dodgers’ offense. The team lost Trea Turner and Justin Turner in free agency. Cody Bellinger also signed with the Cubs, and he is enjoying a turnaround season after a pair of disappointing campaigns with Los Angeles that led to him getting non-tendered last November.
Through the first four months, the Dodgers have not only answered all of those questions; they’ve established themselves as one of the best offensive teams in the Majors. With the uncharacteristic struggles from the pitching side, it’s been the lineup that has led the way.
“[We’re] fortunate enough to have an offense like we do,” Gonsolin said.
With the way this season has gone, there’s no reason to think that won’t continue over the last two months.
“It’s not easy. I think that comes with experience, in the sense that every at-bat, every pitch matters,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Other teams could’ve just conceded and split the series, but to our credit, we kept scratching, clawing, putting together good at-bats. I think we snuck up on Lugo. He was sort of cruising, and we kind of fought back.”