Dodgers complete confidence-boosting sweep of Reds

The Cincinnati Reds have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, one of the least productive rosters, and the sport’s worst pitching staff as measured by Team ERA.

They are so far from the playoffs that even their executives appear to have raised the white flag, announcing this week that they have booked a week-long TopGolf event at their home stadium – mid-October.

So sweeping the Reds probably won’t be one of the Dodgers’ biggest accomplishments this season.

But for a team that had struggled on the plate, battled roster injuries and played plenty of uninspired baseball in recent weeks, the dominance they showed this week showed with three straight wins – punctuated by a 10-5 loss on Thursday, which featured a season-high five home runs from the lineup – could hardly have come at a better time.

“We had a difficult period a few weeks ago,” said midfielder Cody Bellinger. “Now we strike like we should.”

After trailing late in the first two games of the series, the Dodgers took the lead early Thursday.

Bellinger opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly on top of the second before Freddie Freeman added the cushion with a two-run homer in the third — the first baseman’s third hit in the last four games and eighth of the season overall.

Bellinger then came through again in fourth. The slugger stuck in a 0-for-14 slump, beating eighth in the order for the first time since April. The hitter responded by getting the go-ahead on a 3-and-0 count against Reds starter Hunter Greene and hitting a two-run homer to the right.

“It’s always nice to be a part of the hit parade,” he said with a smile, after later adding two singles to finish three for four.

In fact, the Dodgers’ lineup was far from complete.

Dodger Max Muncy slides to home plate when he scores a run on a Cody Bellinger sacrificial fly.

Dodger Max Muncy slides to home plate when he hits a run on a sacrificial fly by Cody Bellinger against the Reds in Cincinnati on Thursday.

(Aaron Doster/Associated Press)

Adding a commanding solo explosion in the fifth, Max Muncy broke out of his own recent struggles – he had just five hits in his previous 34 at-bats dating back to his five RBI returns from the injured list earlier this month – with his first three-hit game of the season.

“It was a really good day,” Muncy said. “We’re mechanically working on a few things and trying to get back to where I need to be. So today is a very validating day as the results are in.”

On the stretch, Will Smith and Trayce Thompson added solo homers to help the Dodgers (43-25) break away.

“It just shows what we’re capable of when we play team baseball,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Across the board I just thought we had the right intentions.”

Clayton Kershaw also offered encouraging signs on the mound and continued to look sharp on his return from a back injury with a six-inning start, one run and seven strikes that dropped his ERA to 2.00 – the best he has ever experienced has eight starts in a season since 2016.

Kershaw said he felt completely rebuilt after his third start.

“I feel like I’m pretty good now in terms of split count and durability,” he said. “All that kind of stuff.”

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers throws in Thursday's first inning game against the Reds.

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers plays the Reds in Cincinnati on Thursday.

(Aaron Doster/Associated Press)

Though Phil Bickford had a disastrous seventh inning and gave up four runs to the Reds (23-46) who clinched the score late, the Dodgers still left Cincinnati with the kind of confidence boost they’d previously eluded during a 7-11 sled this series.

Not only did they win three straight games for the first time in a month, they also scored at least eight runs in three straight games for the first time all season.

“I thought that was our best offensive streak we’ve had all year,” Roberts said.

Not only did they notch up 42 hits, but they outperformed previously slumping hitters like Muncy, Bellinger and Justin Turner, who also had three hits Thursday.

Justin Turner of the Dodgers hits a sacrificial fly against the Reds on Wednesday.

Justin Turner of the Dodgers hits a sacrificial fly in Cincinnati on Wednesday against the Reds.

(Aaron Doster/Associated Press)

“I just think all three guys got it right,” Roberts said. “The approach, the turns were really good. And they were rewarded. So credit to these three. They ground.”

And while they’re still missing Mookie Betts, their other two Superstars delivered, with Freeman finishing the streak with 10 RBIs and Trea Turner collecting his second three-hit game in three days.

“Overall, it feels like we’ve got a full squad going,” Kershaw said. “It’s pretty fun.” Dodgers complete confidence-boosting sweep of Reds

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