Resurgent Dodgers power past the Texas Rangers

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The Dodgers thought they had found a spark during their series win over the New York Yankees last weekend.

Turns out, after a month of mostly middling play from the first-place ball club, they might have actually lit a raging, relentless summertime fire.

In their encore to a successful showdown in the Bronx, the Dodgers returned home to dismantle the defending World Series champions Tuesday night, cruising to a 15-2 rout of the Texas Rangers — their most lopsided win all season.

“It was great,” outfielder Teoscar Hernández said. “We’ve been playing really good baseball. We’re taking good at bats. And that’s why we’ve been producing a lot lately.”

It’s come as a stark contrast to just barely a week ago, when the Dodgers were scuffling through the middle portion of their season.

They went 12-12 from May 10 to June 5. They battled inconsistencies from the lineup and pitching staff for much of that stretch. And entering their showdown with the Yankees last weekend, they were looking for a “shot in the arm,” as Roberts said ahead of that series.

Five games later, that jolt has been received.

The team’s star-studded lineup has surged back to life, punctuating Tuesday’s season-high scoring output with four home runs in a seven-run sixth inning — the club’s first four-home run inning since September 2021.

A banged-up pitching staff has maintained solid production, getting a strong six-inning, one-run start Tuesday from previously struggling left-hander James Paxton.

And, a month after the Dodgers staged a 14-2 run to open a large lead in the National League West standings, the team now appears to be on the verge of another scorching stretch in the schedule, enjoying contributions from all parts of the lineup, and all corners of the pitching staff, en route to winning four of their last five games.

“We caught a lead and then kept adding on,” Roberts said. “I just thought that we won a lot of at-bats.”

Indeed, Tuesday’s blowout began with a blast, when Will Smith carried a fly ball just deep enough for a three-run homer in the bottom of the first.

Mookie Betts then broke the score open in the bottom of the fourth, lining a two-out, three-run, bases-loaded double to left field that gave the Dodgers a 6-1 lead.

“That,” Roberts said, “was probably the big hit of the night.”

It wasn’t until the sixth inning, though, that the club’s sizzling form at the plate reached its peak.

In a span of seven batters against Rangers reliever Grant Anderson, the Dodgers left the yard four times.

Shohei Ohtani belted a two-run homer to right. Freddie Freeman added a solo blast in the next at-bat. Hernández, the reigning NL Player of the Week after his big series against the Yankees, hammered a two-run dinger for his 17th home run of the year, second-most in the NL. And with two out in the inning, Jason Heyward gulfed another long ball deep to right.

Did the Dodgers, who have celebrated home runs this season by showering sunflower seeds on each other in the dugout, have enough supply to last the entire inning?

“Thank God we have a bunch in the dugout,” Hernández, who introduced the ritual to the team this season, said affirmatiely. “It’s fun when that happens.”

When asked what has changed with the lineup over the past week, after the Dodgers were averaging just 3.7 runs in their 24 games prior, Roberts pointed to several factors in the wake of Tuesday’s win.

The big bats at the top of the order are hitting again, highlighted Tuesday by a combined nine knocks and 11 RBI from Betts, Ohtani, Freeman, Smith and Hernández.

The bottom of the order is stressing opposing pitchers, as well, thanks to recent resurgent form from role players like Gavin Lux and Andy Pages (who both had two hits Tuesday).

Mostly, though, Roberts said he is seeing better overall “compete” from his hitters lately, proudly highlighting a two-strike single from Lux in the fourth inning — a hit that ultimately led to Betts’ three-run double — as the latest such example of better at-bat conviction and quality.

“You’re not gonna have your A-swing every night,” Roberts said. “But you should have compete. And tonight, I saw that. I’ve seen that the last four or five games.”

The question now is whether the Dodgers can keep this all going for the foreseeable future, and turn one hot week into another blistering stretch of their season.

“I sure hope so,” Freeman said, with a hedge. “I just wish baseball was more of a guarantee and I could tell you yes.”

“I think so,” Roberts echoed, more definitively. “Just what I saw at the back half of that road trip, I do think that there’s a lot of good things that are happening offensively. Tonight, certainly it all came together. And I can see us sustaining this for a bit.”

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