When he arrived at the ballpark Wednesday afternoon, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knew who his closer was. The unsteady April of Kenley Jansen was not enough to dislodge him from the position he earned with half a decade of excellence. But what Roberts did not know, as he prepared for a series finale against the San Diego Padres, was what exactly ailed his closer.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” Roberts said as he sat in the visitors’ dugout at Petco Park. “Really have no answer yet.”
On this night, at least, the Dodgers devised a solution for Jansen’s travails: Score so many runs he was not needed. In a 13-4 victory over the Padres, the Dodgers extended their winning streak to four games and avoided subjecting Jansen to more stress as he tussles with the defects in his delivery.
For three games near the San Diego Bay, the Dodgers feasted on an overmatched opponent. The group collected its first sweep for 2018 with breakouts by the offense Monday and Wednesday, outbursts sandwiched around an extra-innings victory after Jansen blew his second save of the season. The Dodgers survived Jansen’s hiccup Tuesday and hounded their hosts a day later. The team has scored 37 runs during these four victories.
“Offensively this series,” Roberts said, “it was really fun to watch.”
The lineup blistered San Diego starting pitcher Luis Perdomo for nine runs in three innings.
In his first game as a Dodger, utility infielder Max Muncy capped a five-run, third-inning blitz with a two-run homer. Corey Seager reached base five times and drove in three runs. Cody Bellinger scored twice. Yasmani Grandal collected two more hits to push his batting average to .358.
San Diego flaunted its lack of fielding elegance Monday night. Another error played a major role in a three-run rally for the Dodgers in Wednesday’s first inning. The hitters looked comfortable against Perdomo, who had given up 30 runs in his 30 innings against the Dodgers heading into the game. A poor throw by third baseman Christian Villanueva made things worse.
A walk by Seager set the table for Grandal. He extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single. Bellinger added another single to bring Seager home. Up came Matt Kemp, who had bashed home runs in both of the previous games. He offered a less conventional scoring method this time.
Kemp pounded a fastball into the grass. The ball rolled to third base. Kemp beat the throw from Villanueva, who skipped the baseball past first baseman Eric Hosmer. Grandal and Bellinger raced around for two more runs. Seager supplied an RBI single in the second.
“I felt better,” said Seager, who raised his batting average to .254. “But it’s contagious. Everyone looked better.”
In the bottom of the second, Maeda loaded the bases by yielding three singles. He fell behind in the count to catcher Austin Hedges. Maeda tried a 3-and-1 slider. The pitch snapped into Grandal’s glove at Hedges’ waist. Maeda sunk into a crouch when umpire Hunter Wendelstedt awarded Hedges first base. A second run scored on a sacrifice fly by Perdomo.
The Dodgers answered with thunder in the third. The first five batters all connected for hits against Perdomo. Bellinger cracked a double. Kemp singled. Joc Pederson threaded an RBI single through the right side of the infield. Chase Utley redirected a 94.8-mph fastball into the left-center gap for a two-run double.
Muncy came to the plate for the second time as a Dodger. He had walked in the second inning. The Dodgers called him up specifically for his bat, hopeful he could handle right-handed pitchers like Perdomo while the team awaits the return of Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe. Muncy excelled in his second opportunity.
Perdomo flung a 93.7-mph fastball toward the outer half of the plate. Muncy extended his arms and powered the ball to the opposite field in left. He let his bat flip as it rotated out of his grasp.
“I was looking for something hard out over the plate and he gave it to me,” Muncy said. “I put one of my good swings on it, and it felt good off the bat.”
A giddy group of Dodgers gathered to greet Muncy after he touched the plate. Roberts stood on the top step. Kyle Farmer beamed inside the dugout. Kemp thumped Muncy’s chest and drew out a smile.
Maeda needed the cushion. He surrendered two more runs in the third inning but avoided further damage the rest of the game.
“You just like to win series,” Seager said. “It’s nice to get back to that.”