Corey Seager appeared relaxed sitting on the bench during the fourth inning Wednesday night. He wore a hoodie, water bottle in hand as he spoke with one of the Dodgers’ strength and conditioning coaches.
His tranquility did not suggest a crisis, even though his sudden departure from the game prompted fears of one.
Seager wasn’t supposed to be sitting there. He was supposed to be standing at shortstop. But Enrique Hernandez replaced him the previous inning after Seager flied out in his second at-bat of the Dodgers’ 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres. Minutes later, the Dodgers announced Seager exited the game with left hamstring tightness.
After the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts emphasized Seager’s exit was precautionary. Roberts said Seager mentioned the hamstring discomfort after his RBI double in the first inning. The Dodgers decided to allow Seager to take his second at-bat, but were ready to have Hernandez pinch-run for him if he reached base.
Roberts said Seager won’t play in Thursday’s matinee and would return Friday against the San Francisco Giants.
“Nothing alarming,” Roberts said. “We just wanted to get ahead of it, get him out of the game.”
There’s plenty of reason to practice precaution. The left hamstring is the one Seager strained in mid-June. It put him on the injured list for a month, mounting another obstacle in the 25-year-old’s trying path since the beginning of last season. The Dodgers cannot afford a setback close to that severity for one of their best hitters, not with the start of the postseason a week away. So Seager watched as the Dodgers slugged to their 102nd victory with four games remaining.
Edwin Rios supplied the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with a 473-foot blast over the right-field wall for the Dodgers’ fourth home run. It was the second-longest homer in Petco Park’s 16-year history. Kenley Jansen, the eighth Dodgers pitcher of the game, secured his 32nd save and the 300th of his career with a perfect ninth inning.
Jansen became the fifth pitcher in history to record 300 saves with one team. He reached the mark by earning saves on back-to-back days for the first time since May.
“I never thought I would be pitching in the big leagues,” the 31-year-old former minor league catcher said. “And here I am with 300 saves. Yeah, it’s awesome.”
Joc Pederson ignited the power charge with two solo home runs off Padres right-hander Dinelson Lamet. He led the game off with one, giving him nine leadoff home runs this season. The total broke the franchise record he set last year. He clubbed his second — and 35th this season — to begin the fifth inning.
Chris Taylor added a home run in the second inning in support of Ross Stripling. The right-hander tallied seven strikeouts across three innings. The three runs he gave up all came with two outs in the first inning after some rust on seven days’ rest and a bout of bad luck, after the Dodgers employed a shift.
Stripling was dominant in the next two innings. His sharp curveball induced five swing-and-misses and four called strikes. He executed pinpoint command with his fastball, compiling 10 called strikes with the pitch. Roberts said he will pitch an inning in Sunday’s regular-season finale. His postseason fate could depend on Rich Hill’s left knee.
Seager’s role is not in question. He is a middle-of-the-order pillar on a torrid stretch seemingly at just the right time. Before Wednesday, Seager recorded multiple hits in seven of his previous nine games. He was named National League player of the week after going 10 for 20 last week.
On Wednesday, he cracked his 43rd double in the first inning. The hit generated his 83rd RBI. His night was soon over without displaying any explicit signs of discomfort on the field. The Dodgers didn’t need any.
“Obviously when you hear Corey and you hear hamstring, you kind of tense up a little bit,” Roberts said. “But the tone from the trainer [and] him himself, eased my mind considerably.”