The Dodgers’ bats produced no fireworks on Wednesday, leaving the pyrotechnics for the elaborate postgame Independence Day display that popped and flashed and boomed and illuminated the evening skies behind Dodger Stadium while a sellout crowd oohed and aahed.
Wonder of wonders for this built-for-power, home run-happy team, the Dodgers scored six runs without hitting a home run — and they won.
Rediscovering the lost art of manufacturing runs proved useful for the Dodgers, who played some small ball in completing a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates and extending their winning streak to four with a 6-4 victory. After hitting six home runs on Tuesday they hit none on Wednesday against a parade of six Pirates pitchers but produced enough quality at-bats and timely hits to make seven singles, two doubles and six walks count for a lot. They were 6-4 on a homestand that ended with the bang of firecrackers and rockets, though without the bang of a home run for the first time in eight games.
“I think we know we can manufacture runs. It just so happens we’ve been scoring mostly by way of the homer,” said shortstop Chris Taylor, whose run-scoring single followed a two-run double by catcher Yasmani Grandal and delivered the last run of the Dodgers’ three-run flurry in the third inning.
“I think in most scenarios we’re just thinking about putting good swings on it,” Taylor said, “and on those days when the ball has gone out, we hit six homers in the game, there’s a pretty good chance that even if we weren’t hitting homers we were going to at least be scoring runs somehow. I think we’re just happy to be putting good at-bats up there.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, before Wednesday’s game the Dodgers had scored almost 41% of their runs as a result of homers, putting them about in the middle of the major league pack. After hitting a franchise-record 55 home runs in June, they continued that roll into July and hit 10 home runs in the first two games of this series against the Pirates to lead the National League with 122. Denied the long ball on Wednesday, they managed to find ways to create runs, and that can only be good on the days when home runs don’t come.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but being able to score in different ways will be an asset as the Dodgers, who are 31-13 after hitting bottom on May 16, try to take over first place in the NL West for the first time this season. That appears to be only a matter of time. “We’re not too worried about that,” Bellinger said. “We’re hitting well, we’re pitching well, so it’s been good.”
Muncy and the reborn Matt Kemp have carried them while Bellinger, Taylor and Turner — last year’s big bats — have struggled while Corey Seager has dealt with Tommy John surgery.
Closer Kenley Jansen has left his early problems well behind. With an easy schedule leading into the All-Star game — they don’t leave California again until July 20 — this is the time for the Dodgers to make a big push.
“It’s been fun,” Taylor said. “Everybody seems to be swinging the bat well. It’s nice when we’re on a roll like this. It seems like it’s a different guy that steps up every day.”
For the Dodgers, stepping up also can mean drawing walks and hitting singles and doubles instead of relying on home runs.
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