One contingent of fans at Petco Park, the faction wearing brown and yellow, cheered wildly once Manny Machado cracked the curveball in the fourth inning Tuesday night. The San Diego Padres, down a run, still were seeking their first hit off Julio Urías. Machado’s blast, everyone in the stadium assumed, would give them not only a hit but also a lead over the Dodgers.
AJ Pollock’s job was to not assume. The Dodgers left fielder saw a chance. He retreated to the ad-cluttered wall, leaped, stuck his black glove between three panicky fans’ outstretched hands, and caught the baseball. Once the masses saw that he came down with the robbery, the other group of spectators, the visitors in blue, erupted. Urías held up his arms, pointing to Pollock, in a gleeful shock. Center field Cody Bellinger jumped and ran over to congratulate his teammate.
“I thought it was a home run,” Urías said in Spanish.
The play was a turning point in the Dodgers’ 5-2 win, keeping their 1-0 lead intact, and the result of an adjustment Pollock made after mistiming a jump at the wall Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
“I embarrassed myself the last time I went up to rob a home run, so I was trying to tell the guys I have a little more hops than last time,” Pollock said. “I wanted to jump early so I wouldn’t hit the wall like I did last time. It’s always fun robbing homers.”
Pollock added to the margin with a two-run single in the seventh inning, continuing his stretch as one of the hottest hitters in the majors with a .388 batting average since the first week of July. In the end, he saved two runs and added two as the Dodgers (79-47) recorded their 14th win in 16 games and handed the reeling Padres (68-59) their 10th loss in 12 games in the rivals’ first meeting since June.
The win, however, didn’t make a dent in the Dodgers’ pursuit of San Francisco in the National League West; the first-place Giants beat the New York Mets to stay 2½ games ahead with 36 remaining on the Dodgers’ schedule. The Padres, who opted for a bullpen game and used eight pitchers, fell to 14 games out of first place after Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out Adam Frazier to end the game with runners on first and second.
Urías held San Diego to one hit over five scoreless innings in his first start since Aug. 13 after a stint on the injured list with a bruised left calf. The left-hander walked two, struck out four and threw 74 pitches. The Padres’ only hit off him was Eric Hosmer’s double with one out in the fifth inning.
It was an encouraging outing for a team that has plowed through opponents despite diminished starting pitching. And it came after the most accomplished left-hander in the sport took a step in the right direction in returning from his own injury.
Clayton Kershaw, on the injured list since July 7 because of elbow inflammation, threw off a mound for the first time in almost a month Tuesday, completing a 20-pitch bullpen session at Petco Park before the three-game series opener. All the pitches were fastballs.
It was the three-time Cy Young Award winner’s first time throwing off a mound since July 27 when he logged a 45-pitch simulated game. At the time, he appeared to be nearing a return but the elbow flared up again. Kershaw was transferred to the 60-day IL on Aug. 9. He’s not eligible to be activated until Sept. 5.
Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw, who has a 3.39 earned-run average in 106-1/3 innings across 18 starts, will play catch Wednesday and throw another bullpen session this week in which he “starts spinning the ball a bit.”
“I watched it,” Roberts said of the session. “It was really good. The delivery looked fluid. He felt pretty good about it. … Clayton was excited to get off the slope and feel good. Today was a big step for all of us.”
Kershaw might not have enough time to build up to the 75 to 80 pitches required to return as a starter in early September, but Roberts said he should be ready to pitch out of the rotation later in the month, in time for October.
The Dodgers expect Urías to play a significant role in October, likely as a full-time postseason starter for the first time in his career. But that would require winning the division or surviving the wild-card game — perhaps against the Padres — to advance to the five-game National League Division Series.
On Tuesday, Pollock, with a leap and a swing, was the difference in not losing ground.
Roberts said Mookie Betts hit two home runs in a simulated game Monday at Dodger Stadium and “felt good coming out of it.” Roberts reiterated that the plan is for Betts to come off the injured list Thursday. Betts has been on the injured list since Aug. 11 because of a bone spur in his right hip that has hampered him most of the season. … Roberts said Joe Kelly is scheduled to be activated Wednesday. Kelly has been out since Aug. 10 after testing positive for COVID-19. He logged 1-1/3 innings in two appearances on a rehab assignment for single-A Rancho Cucamonga over the weekend.
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports