Dave Roberts got the green light from Mookie Betts before leaving the stadium Saturday night. On Sunday morning he forced Freddie Freeman into a reluctant agreement.
A day after the Dodgers clinched first place in the National League West, the manager gave his two superstars a well-deserved day off on Sunday – Betts’ first non-injury day off in more than a month and Freeman’s first game out of action this season.
Then Roberts watched his club beat the Seattle Mariners without them over the weekend, enjoying big success from Jason Heyward and the pitching staff that led to a 6-1 win at T-Mobile Park.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” Roberts said. “Of course it’s a great series.”
As the Dodgers’ magic number dwindled in recent weeks, Roberts began planning the two days off for when the clinch became official.
Convincing Betts to take a breather was easy.
“Mookie just texted me,” Roberts said Saturday night during the team’s postgame clubhouse celebration, “and said he wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t play tomorrow.”
Freeman, who makes it his annual goal to play all 162 regular-season games, has been a tougher sell – prompting Roberts to have some “slow, preemptive conversations” with his first baseman in recent weeks about a day off after the clinch to start.
“He set the precedent [last year]Once we get the win, he’ll take the day off,” Roberts said, referring to the only game Freeman had to miss last year in the same situation. “So I had to revisit that conversation.”
It turned out that the Dodgers (91-57) didn’t need a superstar or other regular starters, including catcher Will Smith, third baseman Max Muncy or shortstop Miguel Rojas, to earn their third straight victory.
Instead, Heyward continued his outstanding weekend against the Mariners (81-68), going three for five with a solo home run in the first inning, an RBI single in the fourth inning and a ground-rule double in the seventh inning. His on-base plus slugging percentage is now .865, on pace to match the best mark of his 14-year career.
And fittingly, he delivered on Sunday from Freeman’s usual second spot in the batting order.
“He lent it to me for a second,” Heyward joked after watching Freeman freak out in the dugout. “But it probably felt like three weeks for him when he saw a baseball game today.”
Backup catcher Austin Barnes had a two-run home run, while rookie center fielder James Outman had a late solo blast and fill-in shortstop Amed Rosario had three hits.
The Dodgers also put together a successful pitching plan to complete the sweep, using Ryan Yarbrough (who got the win in a one-run, 4⅔ innings outing) and Gavin Stone (who got the save by leading the game finished with scoreless 3⅓ innings) in big relief behind opener Shelby Miller.
“We just have to keep playing baseball,” Barnes said. “When you take your foot off the pedal, it’s difficult to turn it on and off. So that’s the biggest thing. Keep going. Keep playing good baseball.”