Late September, a crucial series, and a postseason berth on the line. Yasiel Puig thrives in big-game situations, and once again he delivered.
Puig didn’t start despite being on a tear at the plate. But he came off the bench to slug a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the seventh inning that sent the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Colorado Rockies 5-2 on Wednesday night to increase their NL West lead to 2½ games.
“We’re going to win the West again,” Puig said.
Walker Buehler struck out a career-high 12 and the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the second-place Rockies, giving the five-time defending NL West champions their largest division lead this season. They outscored Colorado 16-6 in the series, with homers proving to be the difference in each game.
“It’s impressive,” manager Dave Roberts said of the sweep. “I believe our guys can sustain it.”
The Rockies remained 1½ games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild card.
“Like I’ve said all along, I think this is going to come down to the end,” manager Bud Black said. “I really do.”
After falling into a 2-0 hole in a 36-pitch first inning, Buehler settled down and showed why he has become a dependable complement to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The rookie right-hander allowed three hits and one walk over six innings, and neither run he gave up was earned.
“I just slowed down a little bit,” Buehler said. “The later you get in the year the bigger it all feels.”
Puig’s second career pinch-hit homer came off Scott Oberg (7-1) and ignited the crowd and his teammates, some of whom came out in front of the dugout to cheer. The always-excitable Puig raised both arms as he circled the bases.
“I saw his first swing and I saw him hit the top half of the ball,” Oberg said. “I’m like, ‘OK, it’s probably a decent pitch to throw again.’ Sitting on it. Put a good swing on it. Over the fence. That’s it.”
Puig is hitting .400 this month, with seven homers, nine runs and 14 RBIs. He hit five homers in two days recently.
The Dodgers showed off their depth in the seventh. After pinch-hitter Joc Pederson fouled out, Max Muncy drew a pinch-hit walk. Yasmani Grandal doubled to deep right field, moving Muncy to third and setting up Puig.
“This series was emblematic of our ballclub,” Roberts said. “How many people had their hands in to help us win three ballgames.”
Caleb Ferguson (7-2) got two outs and Kenley Jansen closed for his 36th save.
Buehler gave up a two-run single to Ian Desmond in the first after the pitcher made a run-saving throw to the plate when Gerardo Parra grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Matt Kemp homered on the first pitch from Tyler Anderson in the second, giving the Dodgers seven players with 20 or more homers in a season for the first time in franchise history. That left them trailing 2-1.
Brian Dozier’s RBI double tied the game 2-all in the fifth. Enrique Hernandez singled leading off and made a headfirst slide at the plate, with his feet barely eluding the tag of catcher Chris Iannetta.
Anderson gave up two runs and three hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked two.
The Dodgers went 12-7 against the Rockies this season and swept them twice. Colorado, which lost two of three at home to Los Angeles earlier this month, fell to 1-5 on its nine-game road trip.
“You can see it as a tale of two teams right now with the Dodgers,” Iannetta said. “They’re getting hot over the last week and a half and we’ve been grinding a little bit the last week and a half. We’ve had moments, but we haven’t really had consistent production.”
Rockies: SS Trevor Story is receiving treatment for right elbow inflammation in Arizona, and the team is encouraged that he could return soon. Story might participate in some baseball activities at the club’s spring training facility in Phoenix, where the Rockies are headed next to play the Diamondbacks.
Rockies: Off on Thursday before sending RHP German Marquez (12-10, 3.96 ERA) to the mound against third-place Arizona.
Dodgers: After an off day Thursday, LHP Rich Hill (9-5, 4.02) starts the opener of a three-game series against the last-place Padres.
AROUND THE MAJORS THURSDAY
Still no champagne for the Boston Red Sox.
The New York Yankees staved off elimination in the AL East race for the second straight night by crushing the first-place Red Sox, 10-1. Luke Voit homered twice off David Price and was 4-for-4 with three RBIs and four runs scored. Rookie Miguel Andujar slammed his 25th home run and Aaron Hicks had three RBIs, including a two-run triple. Luis Severino limited Boston to a run and six hits over seven innings to improve to 18-8. Price was rocked for six runs – four earned – and five hits over 5 1/3 innings. He is 15-14 with a 4.90 ERA in 42 games lifetime against the Yankees. The Red Sox will take another crack at clinching in the Bronx when they play the Yankees on Thursday.
— Freddie Freeman was 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBIs as the Braves salvaged the finale of their three-game set with St. Louis, 7-3. Touki Toussaint limited the Cardinals to two runs and five hits while striking out eight over 5 2/3 innings. The outcome gives the Braves a magic number of six for winning the NL East.
— Gio Gonzalez and three relievers combined for a two-hitter as the Brewers rolled to a 7-0 shutout of the Reds. Gonzalez allowed the two hits over six innings and won on his 33rd birthday. Jesus Aguilar and Manny Pina crushed three-run homers for Milwaukee, which began the day 3 ½ games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs.
— Zach Eflin pitched three-hit ball while fanning nine over five innings as the Phillies blanked the Mets, 4-0. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera homered off Noah Syndergaard, who is 12-4 after yielding three runs over four innings. Philadelphia took two of three from the Mets and remain 5 ½ games behind the NL East-leading Braves with 11 to play.
— The Indians pulled out a 4-1 victory over the White Sox on a grand slam by Jason Kipnis in the bottom of the ninth. Cleveland managed just three hits over the first eight innings before winning its second straight. Chicago starter Dylan Covey was reached for just two hits over six innings.
— Adam Frazier slammed a tiebreaking solo homer in the fifth inning of the Pirates’ 2-1 victory over the Royals. Chris Archer scattered six hits and had eight strikeouts over seven innings of Pittsburgh’s fifth consecutive win. Adalberto Mondesi homered in Kansas City’s 100th loss.
— Tommy Pham homered twice and extended his on-base streak to 21 games in the Rays’ 14th win in their last 17 games, 9-3 at Texas. Ryan Yarbrough improved to 15-5 by allowing three runs over four innings of relief after replacing starter Diego Castillo in the second. Tampa Bay is 19 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013 season.
— Stephen Gonsalves threw six shutout innings of one-hit relief and Willians Astudillo drove in three runs as the Twins whipped the Tigers, 8-2. Tyler Austin and Ehire Adrianza poked RBI singles in a four-run second that put Minnesota in control.
— DJ Stewart smacked a solo homer and the Orioles avoided their major league-leading 109th loss by nipping the Blue Jays, 2-1. Stewart had two hits and scored on Cedric Mullins’ RBI single that put Baltimore ahead 2-0 in the seventh.