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Dodgers’ AJ Pollock overcomes din of fake crowd to deliver decisive home run

Dodgers designated hitter AJ Pollock hits a three-run home run off San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Tyler Rogers.
Dodgers designated hitter AJ Pollock hits a three-run home run off San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Tyler Rogers during Sunday’s game.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

AJ Pollock was already a few steps down the first-base line before hearing a human voice amid the clamor of a fake crowd.

With two on and two outs in the seventh inning Sunday, the Dodgers’ designated hitter believed he had drawn ball four against San Francisco Giants reliever Tyler Rogers, certain the sidearm right-hander had missed low with a fastball to walk the bases loaded.

But when Pollock turned around, plate umpire Adam Hamari was flashing two fingers on his outstretched right hand. Pollock was partially in disbelief, but mainly just disoriented.

“I wasn’t really arguing as much,” Pollock said. “It was more, it was just so loud.”

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The artificial roar blaring from the Dodger Stadium speakers had kept Pollock from hearing the call. When he realized the pitch was ruled a strike, he could barely make out Hamari’s explanation through the umpire’s mouth-covering face mask.

“It was a weird situation,” Pollock said. “But it worked out really well.”

Indeed it did. With the Dodgers trailing by two, Pollock returned to the batter’s box and belted the next pitch, sending a hanging full-count curveball to left for a three-run home run to put the Dodgers ahead in their eventual 6-2 rubber-match win.

Reflecting on the 100th anniversary of immensely popular Negro League baseball is particularly instructive during this time of racial reckoning.

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“I thought it was down, but I looked back at the film and Adam had it right,” Roberts said of the call that preceded Pollock’s blast. “It was kind of at that bottom-bottom part of the zone. I’m glad he called it a strike.”

In non-pandemic circumstances, a real crowd might not have been so frenzied for Pollock’s at-bat. Through the first six innings, the Dodgers’ offense was kept in check by Giants starter Kevin Gausman, who flashed increased velocity (his usually mid-90s mph fastball peaked Sunday at 99.3) and sharp command to retire 18 of the first 20 batters.

But after Cody Bellinger singled with one out in the seventh, Giants manager Gabe Kapler turned to his bullpen, pulling Gausman after just 80 pitches and three hits allowed.

The decision backfired three batters later, as Pollock launched his fourth home run of the year onto one of the blue tarp advertisements covering the soulless sections of the left-field bleachers.

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“The impact he’s made with our guys on and off the field has been great,” Roberts said of Pollock, the only Dodger with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage above 1.000. “This year, it’s just really good to see him get out of the gates quickly.”

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Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants highlights.

As Pollock pumped a fist and rounded the bases, actual cheering from the Dodgers dugout accompanied the piped-in pandemonium. Afterward, the 32-year-old veteran could only laugh at the scene.

“Yesterday, [the crowd noise] was a little mellow, then today the fans were going nuts,” he said. “I couldn’t hear the umpire from 10 feet away from me, it was so loud. I don’t know if it’s just different times throughout the game. It’s not bad. It’s just weird.”

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Other parts of Sunday’s game felt more familiar. Dodgers starter Walker Buehler overcame shaky command (four walks and one hit batter) to complete his best start of the season, allowing two runs and only one hit over 5⅔ innings with six strikeouts. The Dodgers bullpen proved dependable again, blanking the Giants over the final three innings.

And the lineup added insurance on Mookie Betts’ eighth-inning three-run home run, maintaining its league lead in scoring despite missing shortstop Corey Seager (back discomfort) for a second straight game and suffering from more early-inning inconsistency at the plate.

Walker Buehler understands how the Dodgers’ success this season depends, in part, on his ability to develop into one of the MLB’s best pitchers.

“As a group, we come together,” Pollock said of a Dodgers offense that is tied for the most home runs in MLB yet began the day 14th in batting average. “You look around and you know the types of hitters we’ve got on this team. We can do some damage and I think it’s cool knowing we were able to put up a bunch of runs early in the year like this and not feel like we’ve hit our stride.”

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Three observations on the Dodgers’ win over the Giants on Sunday:

  • Corey Seager remained sidelined with back discomfort but isn’t yet being considered for a stint on the injured list, according to manager Dave Roberts. “He feels a little bit better than he did two nights ago, which is a good thing,” Roberts said. “We want to give it a few days and then reassess.”
  • Walker Buehler issued four walks (something he did only once all last year), and all four led off innings. Yet, he limited damage by inducing 19 swings-and-misses and finished with season highs in innings (5⅔), strikeouts (six) and pitches (87).
  • Mookie Betts became the second Dodger to reach double-digit RBIs this season with his three-run homer in the eighth. His 10 runs batted in trail only Justin Turner, who has 12, while his .935 OPS is third on the club.

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