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Resurgent Dodgers power past the Texas Rangers

The Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Rangers.
Shohei Ohtani rounds the bases after his two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Rangers on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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The Dodgers thought they 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 ballclub, they might actually have 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.

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“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 their form of just barely a week ago, when the Dodgers were scuffling through the middle 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, they were looking for a “shot in the arm,” as manager Dave Roberts said ahead of that series.

Five games later, that jolt has been received. The 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 frame since September 2021.

A banged-up 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, they appear 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 five games entering Wednesday.

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

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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 first inning. Mookie Betts then broke the score open in the fourth, lining a two-out, three-run double to left for a 6-1 lead.

Sooner or later, the Dodgers will have to make several determinations regarding Mookie Betts and the shortstop position.

June 11, 2024

“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 homer for his 17th, second most in the NL. And with two outs, Jason Heyward golfed another long ball deep to right.

Did the Dodgers, who have celebrated home runs by showering sunflower seeds on one another in the dugout, have enough to last the inning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question is whether the Dodgers can keep this going 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.”

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“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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