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AJ Pollock and Max Muncy power late surge in Dodgers’ victory over Cubs

AJ Pollock, second from left, is congratulated by Dodgers teammate Gavin Lux after hitting a tie-breaking, two-run home run.
AJ Pollock, second from left, is congratulated by Dodgers teammate Gavin Lux after hitting a tie-breaking, two-run home run in the eighth inning of a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Dodgers’ best chance to defeat the Chicago Cubs on Friday, the previous three months suggested, was to pound Jake Arrieta before the gate to the Cubs’ vaunted bullpen opened.

Arrieta began the night with a 5.45 earned-run average in 14 starts. The Cubs’ bullpen is the best in the majors this season. The path to victory seemed obvious.

But the Dodgers didn’t stack runs together against Arrieta a night after getting no-hit in Thursday’s series opener. Arrieta surrendered two runs on five innings. The chances of snapping their four-game losing streak dwindled. Then the Dodgers’ bats woke up with two bangs in the eighth inning for a 6-2 win.

AJ Pollock and Max Muncy each supplied a two-run home run in a four-run eighth. Pollock’s home run — a sky-high fly ball off right-hander Ryan Tepera just over the left-field wall — broke a 2-2 tie. The Dodger Stadium crowd, waiting for the moment, erupted.

Four Chicago Cubs pitchers combine for a historic no-hitter in a 4-0 win over the Dodgers on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to win a baseball game and that AJ at-bat, we needed,” Roberts said. “You could just feel it from the dugout. Forty-nine thousand people were on their feet and it was a lot of fun.”

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Four batters later, Muncy cracked a two-out, two-run home run off Tommy Nance for extra cushion. It was Muncy’s team-leading 15th home run this season and first since coming off the injured list Tuesday.

The Dodgers’ scoring output came after scoring seven runs over their previous four games. It fueled their first win against the Cubs (42-34) in five tries this season and concluded a rough stretch that included a three-game sweep against of the San Diego Padres and Thursday’s no-hitter.

“Honestly, the clubhouse was good tonight,” Pollock said. “What are you going to do? Stuff like that happens. It was a tough series in San Diego, we didn’t play great, but you know, that happens, too. It was a rough one yesterday but we were ready to go today.”

The Dodgers (45-31) began Friday in search of their first hit of the series after four Cubs pitchers combined for an eight-walk no-hitter Thursday. Arrieta’s no-hitter lasted an inning Friday. Cody Bellinger broke it up with a single to lead off the second, snapping the Dodgers’ 0-for-30 skid going back to the ninth against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.

Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy celebrates after hitting a two-run home run against the Cubs in the eighth inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Bellinger immediately stole second base, took third on a groundout and scored on a groundball to the first baseman. Zach McKinstry supplied the second hit with a solo home run to straightaway center field to lead off the third. The Dodgers then loaded the bases, but Will Smith lined out to end the inning.

That was all the Dodgers scored against Arrieta, giving Tony Gonsolin little margin for error. Ideally, Gonsolin wouldn’t have started Friday. The Dodgers would prefer to play it safe after shoulder soreness resurfaced two starts ago and hindered his velocity in his previous turn.

But the Dodgers don’t possess the starting pitching depth the boasted in recent years, or even at the beginning of the season. They went more than a month without a fifth starting pitcher, opting for four bullpen games during the stretch, after Dustin May tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow May 1.

Gonsolin is in the rotation, logging innings through discomfort, out of necessity.

In other years, the Dodgers would’ve promoted a minor league pitcher to make a spot start or two. But they don’t have any big-league-ready options available. The most viable one, Josiah Gray, hasn’t pitched since the beginning of April.

Dodgers second baseman Zach McKinstry hits a solo home run off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta.
Dodgers second baseman Zach McKinstry hits a solo home run off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta in the third inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The 23-year-old right-hander started triple-A Oklahoma City’s first game before he was shut down with a shoulder impingement. He faced hitters Friday for the first time since the injury in a live batting practice session. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he doesn’t know when Gray, the organization’s top-ranked pitching prospect, will be cleared to pitch in games.

David Price and Jimmy Nelson have extensive histories as starters — both veterans are full-time relievers for the first time this season — but Roberts said the team won’t place either in the rotation. So that leaves Gonsolin.

Before the game, Roberts said he planned on limiting Gonsolin to around 60 pitches. He was good enough to have Roberts extend the leash.

Kris Bryant clubbed Gonsolin’s second pitch for a solo home run, marking five straight games that the Dodgers have given up a homer in the first inning. That was the only hit Gonsolin surrendered.

He compiled seven strikeouts to two walks over four innings. He threw 69 pitches.

His fastball velocity wasn’t where it resided in his first two starts but it was about a tick higher at 92.9 mph than in his last outing.

“Certainly a lot more comfortable,” Roberts said.

He exited with a one-run lead that vanished in the seventh inning because Nelson was wild out of the bullpen.

He walked Jason Heyward — one ball went to the backstop — before Jake Marisnick got ahead 3-and-0 and lined a single. Nelson was visibly uncomfortable.

Instead of having players wear their own team uniforms as usual, MLB tosses a changeup by announcing All-Star uniforms for the Midsummer Classic.

Cubs manager David Ross then handed the Dodgers a gift by having Sergio Alcántara drop a sacrifice bunt to move the runners. Nelson was pulled for Blake Treinen after facing the minimum three batters. Former Dodger Joc Pederson followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game.

The next time Pederson stepped into the batter’s box, the Cubs were down to their last out with a runner at third base.

Kenley Jansen struck him out with a 97-mph fastball to put the Dodgers back on track.

Dodgers scheduled to visit White House

In another sign that the country is inching towards pre-pandemic life, the Dodgers hope to resume the tradition of professional sports league champions visiting the White House during their upcoming trip to Washington D.C.

They would be the first professional sports team to go to the White House since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the first with President Joe Biden in office. The team is tentatively scheduled to visit Thursday before beginning a four-game series against the Nationals that night.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said “a smaller number” of people would be allowed to attend because of coronavirus protocols in place at the White House.

“We still don’t have complete finality, but I know that I’m personally excited if the opportunity presents itself,” Roberts said Friday. “I think our coaches and players are as well. I hope Vice President Kamala [Harris] is there. I’d love to meet her, as well as the president. But it’s an honor. …It’s something that I’ve always dreamt about.”

The Dodgers last visited the White House as champions in October 1988 in Ronald Reagan’s final days in office, days removed from beating the Oakland Athletics. The team didn’t go after winning the 1981 World Series in Reagan’s first year in office.


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