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Mookie Betts ignites Dodgers in dominating doubleheader sweep of Giants

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts hits a single against the Giants.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts singles during the first game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Mookie Betts didn’t plan on playing Thursday. One game, a doubleheader. It didn’t matter. The Dodgers star right fielder left Oracle Park on Wednesday intending to protest racial injustice and police brutality following Jacob Blake’s shooting by sitting out again. And the first lineup the Dodgers released for Game 1 of their doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants reflected those feelings. Betts’ name wasn’t listed.

But Betts told Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Thursday morning that he had changed his mind. He wanted to play after igniting the Dodgers and Giants’ collective decision to have Wednesday’s game postponed, creating the first scheduled seven-inning doubleheader in franchise history.

The change, according to Roberts, arose after Betts spoke to Black players around the league. Betts determined he could better use his platform by playing. So, Roberts changed the lineup for his best player. Betts batted first and played right field in the Dodgers’ 7-0 and 2-0 seven-inning wins.

Walker Buehler was placed on the 10-day injured list hours before he was scheduled to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Giants.

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“Just to not divide each and every one of us,” Betts said after Game 1 when asked why he elected to play on the television broadcast. “We have a great clubhouse here and I don’t want to put anybody in an uncomfortable position. So, I’ll go play and I’ll make sure I take care of those off-the-field things.”

His impact on the field was immediate in the first game. Betts led off with a walk and scored the game’s first run on Cody Bellinger’s RBI groundout. Betts later singled in the sixth inning for his 1,000th career hit. In between, the Dodgers (24-9) posted four runs in the fourth inning, fueled by catcher Austin Barnes’ two-run double, to give Clayton Kershaw ample room to operate.

Kershaw, a possessed routine-oriented creature on start days, was slated to pitch Wednesday. The postponement, one he was 100% behind, forced him to adjust. It proved not to be a problem.

The left-hander needed 86 pitches to toss six scoreless innings — one shy of recording his first complete game since 2017. He held the Giants (15-18) to four hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four. He insisted the performance wasn’t as good as the numbers indicated. He pointed to the outfield defense saving him in the first inning, when Bellinger sprinted 106 feet in 5.4 seconds to track a ball down in right-center field and AJ Pollock made a diving catch in left field for the third out.

A.J. Pollock, right, celebrates with teammate Cody Bellinger after hitting a two-run home run.
A.J. Pollock, right, celebrates with teammate Cody Bellinger after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ Game 1 win in a doubleheader against the Giants on Thursday.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

But it was good enough to drop his earned-run average to 1.80, tie Fernando Valenzuela on the all-time wins list with 173, and increase his career win percentage to .696 — the highest in history among qualified left-handed pitchers.

Kershaw’s outing also prevented the Dodgers from exhausting their bullpen. Josh Sborz, the only reliever used, logged the seventh. It allowed the Dodgers to proceed full speed with a bullpen game in Game 2, starting with Caleb Ferguson, after Walker Buehler, the scheduled starter, was placed on the 10-day injured list in the morning with a blister on his right hand. In between games, after naming Ferguson their opener, the Dodgers activated Gavin Lux, their top prospect, from their taxi squad as the team’s 29th man for the doubleheader. Lux started at second base in his season debut. He went 0 for 3 for two strikeouts, but the Dodgers didn’t need much offense. Joc Pederson slugged a 434-foot home run in the second for the game’s first run. He scored the game’s second run after doubling and scoring on Will Smith’s double.

Ferguson, Victor González, and Brusdar Graterol held the Giants without a hit until Brandon Belt lined a leadoff single off Graterol in the fifth inning. In all, seven pitchers kept the Giants shut out for the day.

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So Thursday was a good day for the Dodgers. The sweep, which included the franchise’s first two shutouts on the same day since 1971, kept the Dodgers’ from losing a series for the 17th straight time. But Wednesday’s events were what resonated with the club.

Kershaw said the team made the decision by the time he went to bed Wednesday but would’ve supported Betts if he chose not to play. They took the field for the doubleheader while seven other major-league games, consisting of 14 teams that played Wednesday, were postponed out of protest. Kershaw said he believes Wednesday’s choice was a statement not diminished by working Thursday.

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Dodgers sweep Giants in doubleheader.

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“We’re just doing the right thing,” Kershaw said. “We’re supporting our Black players, we’re supporting the Black community in what they’re going through. And if the roles were reversed and there was something that was really difficult for me or difficult for one of my other teammates, I would hope that we would have the support of our full team. It’s as simple as that.”

During the first game, The Players Alliance, a group of more than 100 current and former Black major leaguers, announced its active members were donating their salaries from games Thursday and Friday — MLB’s Jackie Robinson Day — to the organization. The proceeds will go in support of their “efforts to combat racial inequality and aid Black families and communities deeply affected in the wake of recent events.”

Three takeaways for Dodgers

  • Will Smith said the Dodgers were notified that the start of the second game was delayed from 4:05 to 4:40 at “4:02.” Roberts thought the reason was the Giants wanted to give starter Kevin Gausman time to warm up, but Giants manager Gabe Kapler said the time was changed to give his club more time to prepare for Caleb Ferguson.
  • Justin Turner was hit by a pitch in the first game and walked and was hit by another pitch in the second to extend his on-base streak to 20 games. Turner, the Dodgers’ franchise leader in hit by pitches, is tied for second in the majors with six hit by pitches.
  • Gavin Lux will go back on the taxi squad for the Dodgers’ series against the Texas Rangers this weekend. Tony Gonsolin, now on the taxi squad, will be activated to start Sunday’s finale.

Castillo reported from Los Angeles.


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