Middle-of-the-order production helps Dodgers sweep Giants

The Dodgers’ big three opened Sunday afternoon as Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back singles to start the first inning.

But, perhaps in a promising sign for an at times top-heavy lineup, it was the middle of the lineup that delivered a 7-4 win over the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Unlike most days when the Dodgers’ superstar trio typically carry the offensive load, batters Nos. 4 through 7 in order provided the offensive fireworks.

Together they went seven for 15 with six RBIs. They also organized two three-heat rallies and helped the Dodgers (64-30) extend their winning streak to a season-high eight games and complete a four-game sweep against the Giants (48-47) for the first time since 1995.

Cleanup hitter Jake Lamb had two doubles and an RBI. Gavin Lux went two for four with two RBIs. Max Muncy had an RBI double and two runs. Trayce Thompson also rode in pairs in a two-for-four display.

“We’ve had input from everyone up and down the lineup,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s really, really good to see the team going forward.”

From the moment Freeman signed in March and joined Betts and Turner at the top of the leaderboard, there was little doubt about the talent the team would have at the top of their lineup.

At the start of Sunday, the Dodgers had the best combined on-base plus slugging percentage in the majors from places 1-3 in their lineup, posting a combined mark of .882.

The bottom third of the ladder was also productive, thanks largely to batting eighth or ninth against Lux most days, and recorded the second-highest combined OPS from that portion of the ladder in the majors.

Trayce Thompson, left, runs to first after hitting a run-scoring double.

The Dodgers’ Trayce Thompson runs out of the batter’s box after hitting a run-scoring double against San Francisco relief pitcher Tyler Rogers in the seventh inning.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

For the Dodgers, the middle three places were the biggest hole, where they had just .682 OPS, finishing in 23rd place.

“It certainly wasn’t there for the first few months,” Roberts said. “But in the last month and a half or so it’s almost to the point now that we’ve been a lot better and more consistent than before.”

That was especially true on Sunday.

With catcher Will Smith, the usual cleanup hitter, getting the day off, the Dodgers took Lamb to fourth place. While Justin Turner is still grappling with a rib condition (Roberts said Turner could be back this week), Lux moved up to fifth for the first time this season.

Muncy finished sixth despite being stuck in another lengthy slump. Thompson struggled in a rare start against a right-handed pitcher in seventh-placed Alex Cobb.

They went empty handed the first time, unable to add any more runs after the three singles with the first inning.

But when they came back and came up a half-inning at the bottom of the third after Thairo Estrada’s two-run single gave the Giants a 2-1 lead, they delivered.

It started with Lamb hitting a two-out double in the center. Lux drove him home with a single, leveling the score at 2. Then Muncy and Thompson hit an RBI double and an RBI single, respectively, with Muncy finishing a three-for-38 drought on the plate.

Of the 22 runs the Dodgers had scored up to this point in the series, 20 had come with two outs.

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson, whose brother Trayce Thompson plays with the Dodgers, signs autographs.

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson, whose brother Trayce plays for the Dodgers, signs autographs during Sunday’s game at Dodger Stadium.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“No matter who shows up,” said Lamb, who hits .250 in 17 games with the Dodgers, “you feel like anyone can get the job done.”

The Giants closed the score at 4 at the top of the fifth when Darin Ruf hit a two-run home run that knocked Clayton Kershaw out – marking the left-hander’s shortest start at home this season.

But after Freeman lined a double in the seventh inning that was misplayed down the left by Giants outfielder Yermín Mercedes, the Dodgers’ middle four hitters came through again.

Across from Giants right-hander Tyler Rogers, Lamb slammed into the seats in right field with a go-ahead double and gave the Dodgers a 5-4 lead.

Lux followed up the middle with a run-scoring single, increasing his batting average to a .295.

Muncy balked at picking a fielder, but then Thompson sent a run-scoring double into the right-center gap for his 13th RBI in 25 games with the Dodgers.

On a day in which the team’s bullpen contributed 4⅔ scoreless innings, the breakout in the seventh inning proved more than enough.

“Obviously we’ve got our big four or five guys up front,” Kershaw said, “but Lamber swings the bat and Trayce. It was really fun to watch all the way down.”

As Thompson pulled into second base, his brother, Golden State Warriors star guard Klay Thompson, jumped from his seat behind the guest dugout in excitement.

Around him, the others in the crowd of 47,505 broke into monosyllabic chanting.

“Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!”

On Sunday, they owed the order to the middle of the Dodgers.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-24/dodgers-sweep-san-francisco-giants-eight-game-winning-streak Middle-of-the-order production helps Dodgers sweep Giants

Emma Bowman

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