A few steps away from the Dodgers dugout, moments after his third home run of the afternoon cleared the outfield fence, Adrian Gonzalez revealed his affection for this bandbox along the banks of the Ohio River.
“I love this ballpark,” Gonzalez shouted as he thumped biceps with Joc Pederson, repeating a common sentiment for hitters since Great American Ball Park opened in 2003. In an 18-9 trouncing of the Cincinnati Reds, the Dodgers’ final act before a three-night clash with San Francisco this week at Dodger Stadium, the offense launched seven home runs, including a four-homer barrage in the fifth inning alone.
The long-ball party obscured a troubling effort from starter Scott Kazmir and a game that dragged beyond the four-hour mark. Manager Dave Roberts looked drained afterward, heartened by the offense but fretful by the ongoing issues of his starting rotation.
Kazmir will undergo an examination on his neck and back in Los Angeles this week. A bout of stiffness in his neck has prevented him from finishing his delivery, which explained his 78-pitch, eight-out performance on Monday. The situation leaves the team potentially forced to fill two spots in the rotation, as Brett Anderson deals with a blister.
“Very excited,” Roberts said afterward, “for our offense.”
The players did not share Roberts’ angst. The victory pulled the Dodgers (69-55) a full game ahead of the Giants in the National League West. Kenta Maeda will duel with left-handed ace Madison Bumgarner on Tuesday. Consider Maeda the luckiest man on the Dodgers roster: He flew home on Sunday evening and was not forced to rot in the dugout for Monday’s rollercoaster.
As the group packed for a return home, the hitters found so many reasons for happiness. Each homer in the fifth-inning quartet featured a note of trivia or a reason for optimism.
Andrew Toles and Rob Segedin became the first players in Dodgers history to hit their first major league homers in back-to-back at-bats. Corey Seager tied a franchise record for homers by a shortstop with 22. And Gonzalez provided even more evidence of his second-half resurgence, setting a career high with eight runs batted in.
The Dodgers hit seven homers in a game and four in one inning for the first time since Sept. 18, 2006, when the club accomplished both milestones in a game against San Diego. Roberts remembered that night. He watched those homers fly out of the park while playing left field for the Padres.
“It feels much better on this side of things,” Roberts said.
A six-run tally in three innings tends to be enough for a starting pitcher. But Kazmir managed to collect fewer outs than Bud Norris on Friday (11) and Brett Anderson on Saturday (nine). And Toles misplayed a pair of flyballs into run-scoring triples.
So the Dodgers only held a one-run lead when the fifth inning began. After a walk by Howie Kendrick, Toles stepped to the plate.
A couple hours before the game, Roberts sauntered through the room, offering a greeting and a nickname for each man in his path, from third base coach Chris Woodward (“Woody”) to catcher A.J. Ellis (“Andrew”) to outfielder Joc Pederson (“Young Joc”). Roberts settled his gaze upon Toles, who was napping by his locker, his ears plugged by buds.
“What’s up, Tolesy, how’s The Show?” Roberts said. “Sleep at night, Tolesy.”
Roberts cackled as he left the room. The team would need Toles to wake up soon after, when Josh Reddick informed the training staff he had jammed the middle finger on his right hand. The Dodgers scratched Reddick and inserted Toles into the lineup.
The Dodgers were able to retrieve the baseball and give it to Toles. He stashed it in his bag. He expected to give it to his mother, “if I don’t lose it,” he said. “I lose a lot of stuff. It’s a problem.”
Segedin received a different reaction in the dugout. After he shipped a curveball over the fence in left, he stood alone at the bat rack, as his teammates held firm on the bench. After a few moments, the group converged on him, too.
“They like Toles,” Segedin said. “They don’t like me.”
The two homers removed some tension from the contest. But they did not slow down the Dodgers offense. Three batters later, Seager crushed a two-run shot. The Reds removed Smith from the mound, but Gonzalez greeted new pitcher Jumbo Diaz with a homer on his first pitch of the game.
The afternoon did not require an exclamation point. But the offense kept churning. Gonzalez supplied a three-run blast in the seventh. Yasmani Grandal followed with a solo shot. Seager added an RBI single in the eighth. Gonzalez drove in his eighth run with a groundout in the next at-bat.
“It was a great ending for the road trip,” Gonzalez said. “Happy to fly back home, and we’ll focus on the series tomorrow, tomorrow.”