Joc Pederson goes from left out to joining Dodgers’ left-handed Game 3 lightning
Joc Pederson seemed like an afterthought on the Dodgers playoff roster two weeks ago.
The architect of several huge October moments, the slugger was not in the starting lineup for the Oct. 1 National League wild-card series-clinching win over Milwaukee even though he had four hits, including two homers, in five career at-bats against Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who started that night.
The left-handed-hitting Pederson had already lost his share of a left-field platoon with AJ Pollock after hitting a career-low .190 with a .681 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, seven homers and 16 RBIs in 43 regular-season games.
He also left the team on paternity leave late in the season and again when he was placed on the family medical emergency list, his status such a question mark that manager Dave Roberts said going into the postseason that he didn’t know whether Pederson would even be available after the wild-card round.
But the kid stayed in the picture.
Pederson, 28, found his stroke in the third game of the NL Division Series against San Diego and has stayed hot through the start of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Pederson went four for six and crushed a three-run home run to left-center field in an 11-run first inning to help the Dodgers wallop the Braves 15-3 in Game 3 on Wednesday night.
An explosive first inning for the Dodgers in their 15-3 rout over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS set the tone throughout game, writes columnist Bill Plaschke.
He also singled to center in the third off left-hander Grant Dayton, singled to right in the seventh and reached on an infield single in the ninth.
Pederson is batting .500 (seven for 14) with one homer and five RBIs in the NLDS and NLCS, a performance that earned him another start in Game 4 on Thursday night. He will bat fifth against Braves right-hander Bryse Wilson.
“I just think Joc is really staying in the strike zone, using the big part of the field; even left on left, he stays in there and hits a ball hard up the middle,” Roberts said after Game 3. “When a guy’s going hard to the middle, then they’re seeing it pretty well. Joc is doing a fantastic job for us.”
Pederson joined shortstop Corey Seager, first baseman Max Muncy, center fielder Cody Bellinger and third baseman Edwin Rios as part of a left-handed-hitting assault against the Braves in Game 3.
The group combined to go 12 for 23 with 13 RBIs and nine runs, and all five players homered. Seager hit an RBI double and an RBI single in the first and a solo homer in the third, Muncy capped the first inning with a grand slam and doubled in the third, Bellinger hit a solo homer in the second and an RBI single in the third, and Rios hit a solo homer in the first.
“We took quality at-bats all night,” Seager said. “Even when we got up, we were grinding out pitches. We made them throw a lot of pitches tonight. That’s what you’re looking for in a long series like this. You want to get to guys as much as possible and we did that tonight.”
Seager was the team’s most productive hitter during the regular season, batting .307 with a .943 OPS, 15 homers and 41 RBIs, and he’s stayed hot in the postseason, hitting .367 with a 1.244 OPS, three homers, four doubles and 11 RBIs in eight games.
Muncy and Bellinger, the 2019 NL most valuable player, both struggled during the regular season, Muncy batting .192 with a .720 OPS, 12 homers and 27 RBIs and Bellinger hitting .239 with a .789 OPS, 12 homers and 30 RBIs.
Kenley Jansen, the greatest closer in Dodgers history, is called upon to pitch the sixth inning in a 15-3 NLCS Game 3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Both are warming in the postseason — Bellinger is hitting .281 with two homers and eight RBIs in eight games, and Muncy has two homers and eight RBIs in his last six playoff games.
And now Pederson has joined the party, a development that could greatly enhance the Dodgers’ chances of winning their first World Series title since 1988.
“Every single at-bat he had, he grinded out pitches, got the barrel to the ball and got a big hit for us,” Muncy said of Pederson. “To me, Joc was the most impressive [hitter] tonight, and that’s what he does in these situations.”
Added Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood: “They call it Joc-tober for a reason.”
Staff writer Mike Digiovanna reported from Los Angeles.
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