The merciless, unrelenting machine known as the 2019 Dodgers reemerged Tuesday at Petco Park. They clubbed the ball over the fence. They strung together quality at-bats. They took walks and moved runners over and beat their inferior opponent to a pulp.
After a 10-day slump that qualified as notable for an offense that spent the season’s first five months avoiding prolonged lulls, the Dodgers erupted for a 9-0 win over the San Diego Padres.
They knocked Cal Quantrill out of the game with one out in the fifth inning. Seven straight batters reached base. Five scored. The five runs in the fifth inning alone were more than they had scored in a game since tallying 16 a week earlier against Toronto. They hadn’t scored more than three runs in eight of their previous nine games.
Every starting position player reached base for the Dodgers (87-47). All but Max Muncy recorded a hit. They accumulated 14 hits and went six for 11 with runners in scoring position.
“A lot of good stuff all around,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But the good thing is that we barreled a lot of balls tonight.”
The deluge arrived in support of Walker Buehler, who didn’t require much of it. Buehler reversed his road struggles with 11 strikeouts over six innings. Since the dreadful Miami Marlins scored five runs off him in four innings, Buehler has compiled 19 strikeouts to two walks without allowing a run in 13 innings. His earned-run average sank to 3.03, which ranks 10th in the majors. In four starts against the Padres (61-70), the right-hander is 4-0 with an 0.64 ERA and 42 strikeouts.
“I don’t know if there’s much to it,” Buehler said about his success against San Diego. “Obviously, they have a lot of right-handed hitters and me being a righty, that’s some of the things you want to see.”
The rout culminated in position players pitching the ninth inning for both teams.
Ty France, an infielder, entered for the Padres. His second career pitching appearance began with A.J. Pollock cracking a leadoff home run on an 82-mph pitch before he retired the next three batters.
Russell Martin, a catcher, entered to make his fourth pitching appearance for the Dodgers and put his 0.00 ERA on the line. France welcomed Martin with a double down the left-field line, but Martin rebounded. He struck out Austin Allen swinging through an 88-mph fastball, got Hunter Renfroe to ground out, and Francisco Mejia to pop out to keep his ERA spotless.
“He’s got a lot to work with,” Pollock said of Martin. “He’s not just throwing the ball out there. He’s mixing his speeds. His tempo’s different. He’s got a quick pitch. I wouldn’t want to face him. ... He’s not your typical position player on the mound.”
About the only thing that went the Padres’ way was center fielder Manuel Margot robbing Cody Bellinger of a two-run home run with a leap at the wall in the sixth inning. It would’ve been Bellinger’s league-leading 43rd homer. Instead, it was the second out. Bellinger finished with a double and a walk.
Margot was at the center of a frightening scene in the second inning when Buehler plunked him in the head with a 95-mph fastball. Margot dropped to the ground and stayed there for a couple of minutes as he was tended to. He stayed in the game and walked to first base. The crowd roared. Buehler, clearly distressed, applauded. One pitch later, Margot stole second. He seemed just fine.
“You never feel good about that,” Buehler said. “Obviously, there’s no intent to hit the guy in the head. That’s just not the way I play.”
Buehler struck out Luis Urias looking to leave Margot stranded at second. The scoreless tie didn’t last much longer. Joc Pederson launched the second pitch he saw from Quantrill in the third inning for a leadoff home run and his career-high 27th homer this season.
The next inning started with Bellinger thawing his slump. The Dodgers slugger was one for his previous 14 when he whacked a line drive down the left-field line against a defensive shift. He ended up at second with a double, took third on a groundout and scored on Matt Beaty’s bloop single to left. Beaty stole second and scored when Margot made an error on Enrique Hernandez‘s single up the middle.
Before Beaty and Hernandez’s hits, Dodgers position players were 0 for their last 22 with runners in scoring position. Beaty’s single was the Dodgers’ first run-scoring hit with a runner in scoring position since Friday — three games ago. A fifth-inning flood ensued.
“It was a good night offensively,” Roberts said. “I thought we used the big part of the field. We took what he gave us — whether it be the walk, the base hit up the middle.”
The sequence signaled the end of an unusual stretch that proved even the deepest, most explosive offenses are not immune to the occasional rut over the course of a six-month season.
The Dodgers are confident it was just that — a temporary rut they’ll surmount as they plow their way to a seventh straight National League West title. Tuesday was a start.