The drought — if it can be called a drought — ended in the sixth inning of a 4-0 Dodgers victory over the Angels on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. A day before, for the first time in 18 games, the Dodgers played a game and did not hit a home run. Joc Pederson would not allow the streak to reach a second game.
Pederson unloaded on a hanging curveball from Angels reliever Jose Alvarez and unleashed a three-run homer to dead center. The shot broke the game open for the Dodgers, who had been shut out Monday in the first game of this four-day Freeway Series.
The matchup pitted a pair of players trending in opposite directions: Alvarez has given up 10 runs in 72/3 innings this month. Pederson, meanwhile, is surging after returning from the disabled list June 13. Since his recovery from a concussion, Pederson has batted .319 with five home runs. The homer against Alvarez was Pederson's first against a left-handed pitcher in 2017.
"Maybe," Pederson quipped, his outfield collision with Yasiel Puig on May 23 "knocked some sense into me."
The Dodgers benefited from Pederson's power Tuesday. Kept quiet by Angels starter Jesse Chavez for five innings, they surged ahead in the sixth. The rally made a victor out of Kenta Maeda, who went seven scoreless innings. The Angels managed only four hits. Maeda did not allow an Angel to stand on third base.
Maeda was pitching on three days of rest. He threw an inning in relief Friday. His outing was brief because the club wanted him to pitch Tuesday, as the Dodgers traversed a slate of 20 games without a day off. He earned himself another start with his effort, manager Dave Roberts said.
"There just weren't too many good swings that they got off him," Roberts said.
Chavez finished 2016 as a Dodger. The team acquired him at the trade deadline to bolster the bullpen. He never found a role among the relievers, and languished off the postseason roster all October. The Angels offered him a $5.75-mllion deal during the winter to aid their rotation.
Both pitchers faced the minimum through three innings. Angels outfielder Eric Young Jr. led off the first inning with a single and was thrown out trying to steal second base. Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger opened the second by taking a walk. Like Young, he was erased trying to swipe second.
In the fourth, Young vexed Maeda by chopping an infield single. Two batters later, a single from Yunel Escobar gave the Angels two runners aboard. Maeda bounced back to strike out Luis Valbuena with a 91-mph fastball. A groundout by shortstop Andrelton Simmons ended the threat.
The Dodgers notched their first hit against Chavez thanks to a mistake by Young in center field. On a two-out fly ball from Chris Taylor, Young lost track of the ball, which dropped well in front of him for a double. Bellinger walked to heighten the tension, but Chavez swept aside catcher Austin Barnes with a strikeout to strand the two runners. Angels catcher Martin Maldonado pumped his fist as he jogged off the diamond with Chavez.
In the sixth, Chavez hit a snag. He flipped a changeup over the middle to Chase Utley, who led off the inning with a double. Logan Forsythe walked. Utley advanced to third base on a flyout from Taylor. A pair of runners stood on base for Bellinger, who entered the day leading the National League with 24 homers.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia had seen enough. Out went Chavez. In came Alvarez.
"I ran out of gas a little bit at the end," Chavez said. "And it was a good matchup."
A left-handed reliever who leans on a fastball in the low 90s, Alvarez has proved prone to blowups this month. Four days ago at Fenway Park, Alvarez surrendered two runs on three hits.
The Dodgers dinged him in similar fashion. With the infield shifted toward the right side of the diamond, Alvarez fired a fastball up and away from Bellinger. Since arriving in the majors two months ago, Bellinger has made the spectacular look routine. On Tuesday, he showed how spectacular the routine can be.
"I knew it was either going to be a slider or a fastball away," Bellinger said. "I sat on the pitch away. I saw there was a shift — as long as I put the ball in play, I knew I could beat out a ground ball as well."
Bellinger chopped a grounder toward the area usually covered by the shortstop. Playing closer to second base than usual, Simmons dived, but the ball evaded his grasp. The hit gave Bellinger a team-high 56 RBIs — 15 more than any other Dodger.
Alvarez stayed in the game. He induced Barnes to ground out, and Pederson stepped in with two outs. Alvarez slopped a curveball over the plate, and Pederson insured that Alvarez would not see the baseball again.
"With a lefty right there, sometimes he has a tendency to do too much, get too big," Roberts said of Pederson. "He used the big part of the field. And when he uses the big part of the field, he's pretty good."