Gavin Lux stood between first and second base with a look of disbelief on his face Monday night after a stiff breeze knocked down what he thought was a score-tying home run, his blistering 106.9-mph drive to left-center field dying at the warning track to end the game.
The Dodgers infielder-turned-outfielder would not be denied Tuesday night.
With his team facing a win-or-go-home predicament, Lux reached base in all four of his plate appearances, singling twice, walking twice and scoring a run, to help the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the National League Division Series before 52,935 in Chavez Ravine.
Lux’s productive night for an offense that was shut out in two of the first three games against the Giants was part of a 12-hit, five-walk outburst that evened the best-of-five series at two games apiece and forced a deciding Game 5 in Oracle Park on Thursday night.
“I love the heartbeat, the composure — just watching him take at-bats, it’s like a guy who’s played in the postseason much more than he has,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He had a big night, and I think how he’s conducted himself in this setting is pretty telling.”
Though he nearly hit a homer in Game 3, Lux focused more on playing small-ball in Game 4.
“I’m just trying to get on base, that’s the whole key for me at the bottom of the order,” Lux said. “Get on base for the guys, try to be a pest, work counts, take your hits when you can get them … that’s the whole game plan for me.”
Leadoff man Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and cleanup man Will Smith added a two-run homer for insurance in the eighth, but Lux, who hit sixth, and Cody Bellinger, who batted seventh, combined for four hits and two runs.
“They turned the lineup over, and that’s huge,” Betts said of Lux and Bellinger. “We have to be able to score runs one through nine. It can’t just come from one section of the lineup. Those guys [at the bottom of the order] creating havoc, running the bases, doing everything we need to do, is going to be huge for us.”
Lux, who had never played the outfield — in the minor leagues or big leagues — until this September, started in center field Tuesday night, his first start there since a Sept. 29 game against San Diego, when he slammed face-first into the wall at nearly full speed in pursuit of a Wil Myers triple and suffered a neck-stinger.
Roberts’ desire for another left-handed bat against Giants right-hander Anthony DeSclafani outweighed Lux’s inexperience in the outfield.
Lux hit .375 (18 for 48) with a .995 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his final 16 regular-season games, and his game-ending drive in Game 3 Monday night helped convince Roberts to start Lux over AJ Pollock in the outfield for Game 4. Chris Taylor started in left, with Betts in right.
“For me, looking at DeSclafani, he’s been pretty successful against right-handed hitters, so [I wanted] to give Gavin, who has been swinging the bat really well, an opportunity,” Roberts said before the game. “I like him in the strike zone, just getting another left-handed bat in there.
“And looking at the chances you do get in left field versus center, I think the tougher chances are going to be in left. The sinking liner, the ball to the line, the ball in the gap. Where I think that I’ll take the better defender there.”
Roberts was correct on both sides of the ball. Lux did not get one fly ball hit to him in the first six innings before he was replaced in center by Bellinger to start the seventh inning. And his bat was a difference-maker.
Lux smacked a first-pitch changeup from DeSclafani to right field for a single to lead off the bottom of the second and took third on Bellinger’s single to right. Taylor followed with a sacrifice fly to deep left field for a 2-0 Dodgers lead.
Lux walked off reliever Kervin Castro to load the bases with one out in the third, but the rally fizzled. Lux’s leadoff walk in the fifth sparked a rally that Betts capped with a sacrifice fly for a 5-1 lead. Lux also singled to left-center in the sixth.
Roberts said the performance earned Lux a start in Game 5, and possibly in center field, which is more expansive in Oracle Park than most.
“He’ll be in there somewhere,” Roberts said. “It’s a bigger ballpark. There’s more real estate. I think it just boils down to you either trust a guy out there or you don’t. And he either makes a play or he doesn’t. But like I say, he’ll be in there. I just don’t know where.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports