On Sunday, the Dodgers gave new meaning to the phrase “bringing up the rear.”
Traditionally, the seventh through ninth slots in a lineup are reserved for the defense specialists, the light-hitters, the slumping veterans, the non-confident rookies and the pitchers.
These batters are not expected to generate much in the way of offense. As long as they can make productive outs, advancing baserunners with sacrifices and not completely killing rallies, most managers will be pleased.
But for the Dodgers, when the offense starts rolling and the runs begin to pile up, even the back of the lineup gets in on the fun.
Los Angeles has scored 10 or more runs five times this season, including Sunday night’s 10-2 rout of the Giants. In those five games, the last three hitters in the order have racked up a .429 batting average to go with 12 RBIs and 17 runs, meaning they have had a hand in 50% of the runs in those contests.
Leading the way against the Giants on Sunday, No. 7 hitter Yasmani Grandal lay down a bunt single and belted two homers — all by the fourth inning.
“I’ve been battling little back spasms for the past two or three days,” Grandal said. “Today was the first day I actually felt good, the first day I felt like I could actually swing. … I was just tight. It wasn't anything serious. But I was glad I could swing.”
It was the catcher’s first bunt hit as a major leaguer and the fourth multi-homer game of his career. It was also his first three-hit game since May 7. Overall, Grandal said he was especially pleased with the bunt down the third base line, which came in the second inning and surprised a Giants defense that had shifted to the right side of the field.
“I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty good bunter. I had like 19 sac bunts my freshman year of college, and that’s basically all we did,” Grandal said. “So, I could always bunt, it was just a matter of time. It was just a matter of me making sure they had the right shift.”
In the eighth spot, Jimmy Rollins compiled a three-for-four night with two singles and a double, coming around to score in the second inning. That marks the second-highest hit total of the season for the struggling shortstop, who entered the matchup with a .202 batting average.
“[Hitting coach Mark McGwire] and I have been talking, putting together some things together just to make sense of some things, to make a commitment to what I’m going to do,” Rollins said. “And it’s worked out so far, so I just got to stay committed, and hopefully results will follow.”
Manager Don Mattingly said after the game that Rollins will receive a day off Tuesday, when the team plays the Cubs in Chicago, but Rollins says he hopes to get back in the lineup as quickly as possible to build off Sunday’s strong showing.
Lastly, the nine hole, the pitcher’s spot. Brett Anderson, the starter Sunday, boasts a career average of .086 and has just one hit on the season. But even he found a way to contribute against San Francisco.
After getting hit in the ankle by a ground ball in the first inning, Anderson remained in the game, but wasn’t particularly eager to run the bases. Instead, he laid down two sacrifice bunts in the second and third innings, both times advancing Rollins to second base.
Entering Sunday, Anderson had just four successful career sacrifice bunts. Unlike Grandal, he does not take pride in his bunting ability, and after spending the first five years of his career in the AL, he admits to not being completely comfortable in that aspect of the game.
“I’m getting better. It’s still not my favorite, especially with the bad ankle,” Anderson said. “The more outings you have, the more comfortable you get in the box, and you’re just trying to help your team any way you can.”
After the fourth inning, none of the trio reached base again, but the damage was already done. With six of 16 hits and four of 10 runs, the bottom three made the Dodgers lineup a threat all the way through.