For the first time in four months, Austin Barnes was permitted a free trip around the bases, but his expression revealed little as he circled them. He clenched his jaw and tilted his chin toward his chest. A ballpark awakened around him, as Barnes revived the offense in the third inning of an 11-4 victory over the Mets.
With the Dodgers trailing by four runs, Barnes delivered his second homer of the season, a two-run shot. An inning later he drove in the tying run. He collected three RBIs — before Tuesday, he had produced eight for the entirety of the season. Barnes stayed stoic as his teammates celebrated his achievement.
“It was really nice to see Austin break out,” manager Dave Roberts said.
The victory prevented the Rockies from extending their lead in the National League West. Both clubs won Tuesday — in addition to Arizona — which will set up a showdown this weekend at Coors Field. In the meantime, the Dodgers (76-63) will try to squash the woeful Mets in Wednesday’s series finale.
The offense was not solely produced by Barnes. David Freese hit his first home run as a Dodger. Freese, Justin Turner and Manny Machado all had doubles in a six-run seventh inning.
The runs flowed freely as the Mets bumbled through the evening.
Rich Hill spotted the Mets a 4-0 lead on a pair of homers. He recovered to complete six innings with eight strikeouts. His teammates came to his rescue, reclaiming the lead in the fifth inning. The team recovered after a sluggish performance in the series opener.
On Monday the Dodgers were tamed by Mets ace Jacob deGrom, the National League Cy Young Award favorite. DeGrom logged six innings of one-run ball, a brief enough outing for the Dodgers to strand runners in the final three outings against the Mets’ bullpen.
The opponent Tuesday was less formidable. Jason Vargas won 18 games for Kansas City in 2017, but his first season as a Met has been disastrous. Vargas lugged a 6.56 earned-run average with him to the mound — and that bloated mark had been as high as 8.75 less than a month ago.
Vargas inherited a two-run lead in the second inning. Mets first baseman Jay Bruce crushed a hanging curveball from Hill. In his last outing, Hill kicked himself for lowering his arm slot on a fastball, leading to a homer against Arizona. This time, he dropped down and flipped a breaking ball over the plate. Bruce bashed a two-run shot over the fence in right.
Hill had given up four homers in his past five starts heading into Tuesday. Hitters had tagged his fastball, which can drift down the middle when misplaced. The Mets punished his curveball, his most effective weapon.
An inning later, Hill served up another two-run blast. After a single by infielder Wilmer Flores, Hill left a curveball at the belt of outfielder Michael Conforto. The ball landed deep in the right-field bleachers.
“If you look at it, after two bad pitches, everything else was OK,” Hill said.
The Dodgers answered with an unlikely sequence. Chris Taylor led off the bottom of the third with a walk. Up came Barnes. He had started throughout the postseason last October, but bequeathed the job back to Yasmani Grandal this spring. Barnes responded with a pitiable offensive showing, slugging a mere .249 heading into Tuesday.
“It’s been a frustrating little funk I’ve been in,” Barnes said. “Not really little.”
Barnes had supplied a solo shot May 3, but little else at the plate. The power outage rendered the result against Vargas all the more stunning. Barnes clubbed an 86-mph sinker into the left-field bleachers to halve his team’s deficit.
The lead disappeared in the fourth as the Dodgers launched a homer and then feasted on the Mets’ defensive inadequacy. Hanging with Vargas for eight pitches, Freese detonated a full-count changeup to end the at-bat.
The Dodgers were not done. Enrique Hernandez singled and Taylor smashed a double. Hernandez held at third base, granting Barnes another opportunity to drive in runs.
On two occasions during his at-bat, Barnes benefited from the incompetence of the Mets.
First he fouled off a two-seamer near the Mets dugout. An outfielder for most of his career, Bruce trotted toward the railing in pursuit. He arrived in time to watch the ball land at his feet. His glove scarcely moved.
A moment later, Barnes chopped a grounder to third base, where Todd Frazier awaited. Frazier bobbled the ball, unable to make a play at either the plate or first base, where Barnes was safe on the game-tying error.
After Hill bunted into an out at the plate, Barnes kept moving. He stole third base against reliever Tyler Bashlor and scored when Brian Dozier beat out a double-play ball.
The Mets fell apart in the seventh. Turner led off with a double against reliever Corey Oswalt. Machado hit an RBI double. Oswalt bounced a slider that rattled around the backstop and Machado sprinted from second to score on a wild pitch. Freese supplied an RBI double to keep the rally going.
It was far from over. Hernandez singled and so did Taylor. With runners at first and third, Grandal smashed a pitch from former Dodgers farmhand Jacob Rhame into the right-field corner. The ball bounced off the wall, which caused Grandal to hold up with a single. But Hernandez and Taylor raced home as an exclamation point on the rout.
“To put a big offensive board on the night tonight was big,” Barnes said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”