All-Star snubs Freddie Freeman, Will Smith punish Cardinals in Dodgers’ 4-0 win
They were two of baseball’s biggest All-Star snubs.
Now, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith are the Dodgers’ two hottest hitters.
“I don’t think that either player will admit it,” manager Dave Roberts said, “but anything a player can use to motivate them, to get through the grind of a season, I think is a benefit.”
It certainly benefited the Dodgers on Thursday, when Freeman and Smith both continued their streaking form with two-hit games in the Dodgers’ 4-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
As Roberts suspected, each player brushed aside the notion that missing the All-Star Game has motivated them this week.
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“Even going into that … I was starting to feel better and better,” said Freeman, who has been on a torrid pace since the All-Star teams were announced Sunday. “It just so happened to click on the same day.”
Echoed Smith: “No, I don’t think it was that. I try to go out there every day, same attitude, same mindset.”
Still, their recent tears are helping the Dodgers (58-30) reach the midseason break in a flurry, the team having now won four straight series and 13 of their last 15 games.
“Those guys use it, maybe, as a little fuel,” Roberts said. “And we’re the recipients.”
No one is swinging a hotter bat than Freeman at the moment.
Starting with Sunday’s game, Freeman has reached base in 16 of his past 18 trips to the plate, a stretch that includes six extra-base hits (four doubles and two home runs), four RBIs and five runs scored.
Thursday was technically his worst performance of the week, after he had four-hit games on Sunday and Tuesday and reached base five times on Wednesday, and he still went two for three with a walk, double and run scored. Even his lone out was scorched, a 102.2-mph line drive caught in center field.
“It just feels like I’m recognizing strikes and hitting strikes,” Freeman said. “I’m not fouling really any pitches off. When I swing, I hit it. And I’m swinging at good pitches.”
The first baseman leads the majors in hits with 111, and is also top 10 in batting average (.320), OPS (.920) and doubles (30).
“The ball looks like a melon up there [to him], he’s just seeing it so well,” Roberts said. “He’s as good a player that’s omitted from the All-Star team that I can imagine.”
Smith might be a close second — and an even bigger snub.
While the National League was stocked full of other worthy first basemen, Smith seemed to have a strong argument as one of the league’s top two catchers.
Entering Sunday, he was leading NL backstops in home runs and RBIs, and trailing only fan-voted starter Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs in OPS when teams were announced Sunday.
However, Travis d’Arnaud of the Atlanta Braves got the nod as the NL’s second catcher, much to the dismay of Roberts, who had been vocal about wanting Smith to earn a first career All-Star selection.
“I’m still irritated,” Roberts said earlier this week. “I think they missed it.”
The snub, however, has coincided with one of Smith’s best stretches of the season. In the last seven games, he is batting 10 for 27 with two doubles, a home run and eight RBIs.
In the sixth inning Thursday, he doubled home a run that helped the Dodgers — who also got a scoreless six-inning gem from starter Tyler Anderson, three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to complete the team’s sixth shutout of the season and a seventh-inning two-run home run from Gavin Lux — start to pull away from the Cardinals (48-44) down the stretch.
“Just to play with the lead and have the bullpen do what they did tonight was really good,” Roberts said. “We got two more games against the Angels, just trying to finish off this first half the right way.”
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Graterol goes on IL
Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol was placed on the injured list Thursday with shoulder inflammation and is scheduled to get an MRI on Friday, although Roberts said the team does not believe the injury is serious.
Roberts said Graterol felt a “twinge” in his shoulder following plyometric ball drills Wednesday, but added “we’re pretty optimistic because there’s really not one incident that triggered this. I think we feel pretty confident.”
Roberts said the upcoming All-Star break made it easier for the team to decide to play it safe and put Graterol on the injured list. With his IL stint backdated to Monday, Graterol will be eligible to return July 26 — meaning he could only miss eight total games.
Reyes Moronta, who had been on the trip already as a taxi squad member, was activated in Graterol’s place.
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