All it took was two Dereck Rodriguez changeups to awake the Dodgers lineup from its weekend slumber.
Behind home runs from Matt Beaty and Corey Seager, each of them belting an offspeed pitch Rodriguez left over the plate, the Dodgers cruised to a 5-0 home win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday and trimmed their magic number for a postseason berth to two.
Los Angeles (93-52) entered the series finale in an offensive funk. The team was shut out Saturday and hadn’t recorded multiple runs in an inning since Wednesday. When Beaty came to the plate in the fourth, it had been seven innings, going back to Saturday’s loss, since the Dodgers’ last hit.
“It seemed like Rodriguez had our number early,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He was very efficient. The changeup was good.”
Then, it wasn’t. After walking Cody Bellinger with two outs, Rodriguez (5-9) started Beaty with a first-pitch changeup that caught the bottom of the zone. In an 0-and-1 count, he threw the same pitch again. Only this time, the ball was elevated. Beaty clobbered it into the right-field bullpen, bringing a half-asleep crowd of 52,310 to life.
“We’d been struggling a little bit with the bats,” Beaty said. “We just stayed with our approaches, let him be in the bottom of the zone. Then the next mistake, make the most of it.”
Seager provided a similar jolt in the fifth after Joc Pederson extended the inning by safely racing to first on a two-out error. After swinging through another first-pitch changeup, Seager wasn’t fooled when Rodriguez came back with the offspeed pitch again. He hammered a three-run home run to straightaway center that made it 5-0.
The Giants (69-74) had no answer.
Dodgers starter Julio Urias labored through two innings, tossing 43 pitches and working around three base hits. Urias’ velocity was down early, and Roberts said the left-hander will move back to the bullpen moving forward.
“There’s times where he comes in and the first throw is a 95 [mph],” Roberts said. “Today, it was a 91. I think there is something to, I don’t know if it’s the pregame [routine] or what, but there is something we need to address.”
Converted starter Kenta Maeda had no such problems out of the bullpen, allowing one hit and striking out six in four dominant innings between the third and sixth.
Casey Sadler was perfect in the seventh, Yimi Garcia and Adam Kolarek combined for a scoreless eighth, and Josh Sborz worked a stress-free ninth. But it was Maeda (9-8) who earned the win and Roberts’ highest praise.
“His aggressiveness from the first pitch was evident,” Roberts said, adding, “For him to concede that starting spot for the benefit of the ball club going forward … speaks a lot to his character.”
Though Maeda’s long outing was planned, his usage out of the bullpen is expected to change as the playoffs near. The Dodgers can clinch the National League West as soon as Tuesday, needing two wins, two Arizona Diamondbacks losses, or one of each.
“In the postseason, Kenta’s value is to be available every game,” Roberts said. “A long guy is definitely not Kenta. Kenta [will] pitch leverage innings in the postseason, very important innings.”
There was such no pressure moment Sunday. Once Beaty and Seager went deep, the Dodgers coasted to their 15th shutout of the season and evaded what would have been their first sweep in a series of three or more games since April.
“Beaty … getting us on the board was a sigh of relief,” Roberts said. “Then the big blow by Corey was huge.”