Yoshinobu Yamamoto shines and Dodgers' offense shows some life in win over Rockies


Los Angeles, CA, Saturday, June 1, 2024 - Colorado Rockies pitcher Cal Quantrill (47) looks on as Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andy Pages (44) scores on a double by Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jason Heyward (23) in the second inning at Dodger Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

A steady stream of hits and walks and quality at-bats did not translate into a massive amount of runs for the Dodgers on Saturday night, but when combined with a strong Yoshinobu Yamamoto start and some stout relief, it was enough for a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies in front of 50,182 at Dodger Stadium.

A struggling Dodgers offense racked up 11 hits, including three by Andy Pages and two each by Freddie Freeman and Teoscar Hernández, and four walks but was unable to build more than a three-run cushion.

Thanks to Yamamoto, the Dodgers didn’t need to. The right-hander navigated through heavy traffic to complete six innings, giving up one run and seven hits, striking out seven and walking one to improve to 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 12 starts.

Read more: Dodgers befuddled by Colorado pitching as winning streak ends

Yamamoto gave up his only run in the second inning when Brendan Rodgers doubled, took third on Elehuris Montero’s groundout to second and scored on Brenton Doyle’s sacrifice fly to right field.

He stranded two runners in each of the first, third and sixth innings and, with his season-high 101st pitch of the game, got Montero to ground out to shortstop with runners on second and third to end the sixth, preserving a 4-1 lead.

Daniel Hudson retired the side in order in the seventh, Blake Treinen gave up two hits in a scoreless eighth and closer Evan Phillips, making his first appearance since May 3, retired the side in order in the ninth for the save.

Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto yells out as he throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies.Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto yells out as he throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies.

Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto yells out as he throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers scored twice in the second for a 2-1 lead, the first run coming when the Rockies committed two errors on the same play and the second on Pages two-out single and Jason Heyward’s RBI double to right-center.

Pages singled with two outs in the fourth, Heyward walked, and Kiké Hernández hit an RBI single to left-center for a 3-1 lead. Freeman tripled into the left-field corner and scored on Will Smith’s RBI double to left for a 4-1 lead in the fifth.

The Dodgers were an offensive force for seven weeks, batting .263 with a .792 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and averaging 5.4 runs through May 14, a stretch in which they went 29-15. But in their next 15 games through Friday night, they hit .230 with a .672 OPS and averaged 3.5 runs, going 7-8 in that span.

Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, Freeman and Smith have manned the first four spots in the lineup all season, but with the team in an extended funk, manager Dave Roberts said he was considering tinkering with the alignment.

“I’ve thought about potentially splitting up the two lefties,” Roberts said before the game, alluding to Ohtani and Freeman. “Not against right-handed [starters], but maybe against lefties.”

If Roberts flip-flopped Freeman and Smith, the Dodgers would go right-left-right-left-right in the first five spots, with Teoscar Hernández batting fifth. That would give them a more balanced lineup in general and leave the top of the order less vulnerable to shut-down left-handed relievers in the later innings.

Roberts said he won’t make that switch against Austin Gomber on Sunday because the Rockies left-hander is “a neutral guy,” meaning he is equally effective against right-handed and left-handed hitters.

Colorado Rockies shortstop Ezequiel Tovar tags out Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani during the third inning Saturday.Colorado Rockies shortstop Ezequiel Tovar tags out Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani during the third inning Saturday.

“But against a lefty who has more [extreme] splits, I might think about it,” Roberts said. “If I do, I would certainly have Freddie be part of that conversation.”

If Ohtani was crushing the ball the way he did for the first six weeks of the season, Roberts might not even consider that conversation, but the slugger entered Saturday with a .196 average (10 for 51), .627 OPS, two homers and eight RBIs in his previous 13 games.

Ohtani went one for three with a single, a walk, a strikeout and a stolen base Saturday night, but he cost the Dodgers a run when he was picked off second base before Freeman’s single in the third inning.

Ohtani was hitting .364 with a 1.108 OPS on May 15. He is now batting .326 with a .999 OPS. Not coincidentally, Ohtani suffered a right-hamstring bruise when he was hit by a pickoff throw from Reds left-hander Brent Suter on May 16.

Read more: Analysis: ‘We need them.’ Why it’s crucial for Dodgers to find ‘spark’ from bottom half of lineup

“His words, he doesn’t feel it when he’s swinging the bat,” Roberts said. “But he’s a finely tuned machine, and sometimes, in the context of a sports car, when it’s not firing on all cylinders, it just doesn’t run right.

“When his back was bothering him a little bit [in early May] you saw some funkier swings, a little bit more chase. His hamstring is bothering him a little bit, you see a little bit of the same thing. But I think that he’s getting close to where he needs to be physically. I think that staying to the big part of the field is a remedy.”

Rehab report

Clayton Kershaw’s fastball touched 88 mph during a 20-pitch simulated inning in which he faced three batters Saturday, a workout the veteran left-hander, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, likened to “basically the first step of spring training.”

Kershaw will throw a two-inning simulated game with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga later this week while the Dodgers are on the road. If he follows a normal six-week spring training progression without setback, he could return in mid-July.

“Right now, we’re way ahead of schedule, which is really encouraging,” Roberts said. “He came out of it feeling good, feeling strong. There was no tentativeness. I didn’t see him guarding anything. He felt free and easy.”

Bobby Miller, out since April 13 because of shoulder inflammation, gave up four earned runs and five hits in 3 ⅓ innings with no strikeouts and one walk in his second rehabilitation start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga at Lake Elsinore on Saturday.

The right-hander threw 65 pitches, 38 for strikes. He will make at least one more rehab start for triple-A Oklahoma City before being considered for the Dodgers’ rotation.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.



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