Justin Turner pulled Hyun-Jin Ryu aside as Ryu left the mound at Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It was the sixth inning of a game that the Dodgers secured, in part, because of Ryu’s bat and maintained, in part, because of his arm. Turner distilled Ryu’s performance into a succinct message.
“Good pitching,” Turner told Ryu. “Better hitting.”
It was Ryu who sparked the Dodgers with a two-out single in the fifth inning of a 7-3 victory over San Diego. But it was Turner who performed most of the heavy lifting for the offense, driving in five runs as the Dodgers (70-61) swept the Padres and boosted their flagging confidence. Manny Machado swatted the go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth after Turner tied the score by plating Ryu with a two-run double.
By trouncing an overmatched opponent this weekend, the Dodgers reduced their deficit in the National League West to 2 1/2 with 31 games remaining. Sunday’s win gained no ground on Arizona, which also won, but L.A. picked up a game on second-place Colorado. The Dodgers will see both teams in the next two weeks.
Manager Dave Roberts acknowledged he felt “considerably better” heading into Monday’s day off compared to last week, when the team skidded into an off day after a sweep by St. Louis.
“There’s a lot of good things that happened in this series,” Roberts said.
The competition helped. San Diego resides in the basement of the division, and belongs there. But the necessity to win trumps all other considerations — like questions about the reliability of struggling closer Kenley Jansen or the skittishness of the offense with runners in scoring position.
Turner has been the team’s most effective hitter this month. He missed 40 games with a fractured wrist to start the season. His production stagnated upon his return, with a .747 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at the All-Star break. After three more hits Sunday, he boosted his OPS to .906.
“I’m in a pretty good spot right now,” Turner said. “Haven’t had any problems with the wrist, and I’m seeing the ball pretty well at the plate.”
Ryu permitted 11 hits but limited San Diego to two runs in 5 2/3 innings. He compensated for his vulnerability with eight strikeouts and two hits of his own. Dylan Floro completed two scoreless innings of relief. Yimi Garcia gave up a solo home run in the ninth.
“I did give up a lot of hits,” Ryu said. “But I managed to control the damage.”
When the weekend began, Alex Wood was listed as the Sunday starter. The Dodgers announced a switch Saturday. Wood will start Wednesday against Texas.
Roberts was cryptic when discussing the switch. He conceded the decision was related to setting up the rotation for next week against Arizona — Ryu will face the Diamondbacks, not Wood — but otherwise indicated the team wanted to keep Ryu on a regulated schedule.
Wood could not complain about receiving extra rest at this point in the season. But he could not explain the switch.
“That’s just how they’re setting it up,” Wood said. “That’s as much as I know.”
Ryu yielded a second run in the third inning. Wil Myers tripled into the right-field corner. A single by Hunter Renfroe brought Myers home.
The Dodgers offense hibernated through the first four innings. A rally in the second fizzled after Matt Kemp doubled and Chris Taylor reached on a fielding errors. With runners at the corners, San Diego starter Robbie Erlin needed seven pitches to escape. After Yasiel Puig took a 1-2 fastball for strike three, Austin Barnes gawked at an 0-2 fastball for the third out.
The offense broke through in the fifth. Ryu opened the sequence with a two-out single, his second of the game. A walk by Brian Dozier brought up Turner. Erlin fed Turner only fastballs. Turner smashed the fourth of the at-bat, a 1-2, 92-mph heater that might have been a ball, into left for a game-tying double.
Up came Machado. He had opened Saturday’s game with a three-run blast. Now he detonated an inside fastball toward the left-field corner. The ball stayed inside the pole to give the Dodgers the lead.
“That’s what we hope to do every time,” Turner said.
Back on the mound, Ryu could not finish the sixth. He gave up a pair of two-out singles before Roberts intervened. Roberts made a curious choice for Ryu’s replacement: Pedro Baez. But Baez escaped when Myers smashed a groundball at Machado for the third out.
Turner drove in two more in the sixth. Padres reliever Phil Maton walked Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson. A wild pitch by the next reliever, Robert Stock, moved the runners into scoring position. Turner redirected a 98-mph fastball up the middle for a two-run single.
“Every time he’s up, he’s going to give himself and us the best chance to do something positive,” Roberts said of Turner. “He’s very focused on each pitch. The results, fortunately today, worked in our favor.”