Dodgers make early-season statement in sweep of Giants: Three takeaways from series

Mookie Betts claps and smiles during a Dodgers game.
Mookie Betts celebrates his solo home run against the Giants in the sixth inning Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Ask around the Dodgers clubhouse, and you’ll get different answers.

For some players, such as Mookie Betts, games against the San Francisco Giants are like any other.

“We play the Giants the same way we play anybody else,” Betts said. “It’s just another game.”


For others, including Chris Taylor, the matchup has added significance — especially after the teams jockeyed for the National League West title last year before meeting in the NL Division Series.

“We know they’re probably going to be up near the top or in contention at the end of the year,” Taylor said. “So yeah, these games are important.”

One thing everyone in a Dodgers jersey agrees on: Performances such as this week’s two-game series sweep, and Wednesday’s 9-1 win in particular, should be the standard for this year’s team. Doing it against the Giants made an all the more resounding early season statement.

The Dodgers swept the two-game series against rival San Francisco Giants with a 9-1 win on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

May 4, 2022

“I think certainly, they have to bring out the best in us — they sort of always do,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s a very good ballclub over there. I’m just happy that we drew well this week, this series and we performed well.”

Here are three takeaways from the series.

Lineup finally clicks

The Dodgers entered Wednesday as one of baseball’s highest-scoring lineups, ranking third in runs-per-game. But they hadn’t been one of the league’s most potent at the plate.

They ranked just 12th in batting average, 11th in slugging percentage and 15th in home runs. Only three of their hitters had an on-base-plus-slugging percentage above .720. And several of their biggest stars — including Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Trea Turner — have dealt with early-season struggles.


After scoring just three runs in Tuesday’s victory, however, the group finally looked as advertised on Wednesday. They scored nine runs on 11 hits. They drew four walks and hit two home runs. And they scored both consistently and in bunches, producing a run in four different innings and scoring four in the seventh alone.

“As far as taking walks when we needed to, using the whole field, hitting the ball on a line, running the bases -- just a well-played offensive game,” Roberts said.

His players agreed.

A Giants player reaches in vain for the ball after a home run.
Giants center fielder Mike Yastrzemski can’t make the catch as Mookie Betts hits a solo home run in the sixth inning Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Betts called it the kind of performance the Dodgers expect from themselves every night. Bellinger credited the team’s ability to scratch across three runs against Giants starter Alex Wood before exploding for six against San Francisco’s bullpen.

“We did a good job of getting to the bullpen,” Bellinger said, “and getting to those guys.”

Through the opening month, such complete offensive performances have too often eluded the Dodgers — who have instead relied more on timely hitting, the occasional big offensive inning and strong all-around pitching to a 16-7 start.


They’ll be hoping Wednesday was the start of a new phase for their lineup, that their best game yet will keep reverberating over the coming weeks.

“We just kind of clawed away,” Roberts said. “To tack on late was big.”

Muncy gets results

Prior to Wednesday, Muncy had one of the strangest stat lines in baseball.

His .130 batting average ranked second-to-last in the majors among qualified hitters. Yet his 19.5% walk rate was better than anyone else. It all added up to mediocre — though not completely futile — overall results, with Muncy owning a 70 OPS+ entering Wednesday, meaning he’d been about 30% less productive than a league average hitter.

“If I’m not helping the team win, then I gotta take a deep look at myself,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “But right now, just gotta keep with the process, keep having good at bats and it’s gonna turn around eventually.”

Wednesday night, it finally did. In the seventh inning, Muncy roped a line drive to right field that dropped just in front of the outfielder, snapping an 0-for-16 skid.

“I thought for sure it was caught,” he joked after.

The Dodgers continue to show a confounding lack of faith in starting pitcher Julio Urías despite his 20-win effort during the 2021 season.

May 4, 2022

In his next at-bat, he lifted a home run the other way, his third long ball of the season.

“I know it was a relief for him to see some results,” Roberts said.

After the game, Muncy declined to be interviewed on-camera. He cited superstition, saying the last time he’d talked postgame, following a two-hit performance in San Diego on April 22, he’d immediately slipped back into a slump, going just two for 27 in the next eight games.

Postgame interview or not, Roberts is hopeful such a dip isn’t imminent again.

“He’s been grinding,” Roberts said. “I just thought tonight the swings that he took, the base hit he squared up, it was more of a flat swing. Even the home run, he went backside but I thought the swing, he wasn’t underneath it, [it had] the right trajectory.”


NL West looking tough

While the Dodgers moved into sole possession of first place Wednesday, going one game up on the San Diego Padres and 2½ clear of the Giants, they still have yet to create much breathing room in what’s shaping up to be a difficult NL West.

The Giants have been without several key members of their lineup over the opening month — including Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Yastrzemski, the latter of whom only returned Wednesday from the COVID-19 list — yet have gotten off to a strong start behind their deep and talented pitching staff, which ranks in the top 10 in MLB in team ERA.

The Padres have been missing star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and several important parts of their starting rotation — including Blake Snell and Mike Clevinger, who returned from Tommy John surgery on Wednesday — but continue to win games with a balanced lineup at the plate, helping them rank in the top five in scoring.

Even the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks have begun the season well. The Rockies are 14-10, thanks in large part to a 10-5 mark at Coors Field that includes a series win over the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks are 13-13, surging of late with a recent 7-3 run that began with their own series win against the Dodgers.

The NL West is currently the only division in baseball without a team below .500.

“It wouldn’t be fun if we just run away with the division,” Betts joked prior to this week’s series.


Even with the Dodgers’ strong start to the season, there doesn’t appear to be any worry of that right now.