Freddie Freeman and JD Martinez help Dodgers comeback over Rangers

Freddie Freeman and JD Martinez help Dodgers comeback over Rangers
Los Angeles Dodgers' Freddie Freeman (5) raises his fist as he runs the bases after a home run in the fifth inning.
Freddie Freeman raises his fist after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning of an 11-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on Friday. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press)

The Dodgers returned to the stage of their biggest triumph in 35 years on Friday night, the stadium where they holed up for 24 days amid a worldwide pandemic to win two playoff rounds and the 2020 World Series, and for a minute it looked like their bubble could be burst by the player who carried them to that title.

Corey Seager, the former Dodgers shortstop who was the 2020 World Series Most Valuable Player, hit a tie-breaking home run for the Texas Rangers in the sixth inning, but the Dodgers got two runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and two in the ninth for an 11-5 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 39,808 at Globe Life Field.

Freddie Freeman hit a two-run double and a solo homer, Will Smith and JD Martinez hit two runs scoring hits in the eighth, and center fielder Jonny DeLuca made spectacular catches on back-to-back plays in the fifth as the Dodgers (56-40) snapped the Rangers’ six-game winning streak.

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“It was just a night where you can step back and realize what this whole team is capable of,” Freeman said after the Dodgers won for the 17th time in 24 games. “We can beat him in all different ways. This lineup, the way we’ve been swinging the bats lately, a lot of guys are feeling good.

Seager’s solo shot with reliever Alex Vesia to lead off the sixth gave Texas a 5–4 lead, but Mookie Betts started the seventh-inning rally against Rangers reliever Alex Speas with a leadoff walk.

Freeman went ahead 2–1 on the count, at which point Texas coach Bruce Bochy issued an intentional walk, putting the potential green run on base. Smith fired a right center single to shallow to load the bases with no outs, and Martinez caught a plate total count cutter for a walk to force home Betts to a 5-5 tie.

Lefty Brock Burke had Chris Taylor jump to first base for the first out, but Max Muncy avoided a possible double-end play by winning the fielder’s choice to shortstop, Freeman scoring for a 6–5 lead.

Miguel Rojas led off at eight with a single to right-hander Grant Anderson and took second on Yonny Hernandez’s sacrifice hit. Rojas made a running jump and stole third, and Betts walked, putting runners into the corners with one out.

Freeman countered looking, but Smith found the gap at right center with a double that scored Rojas and Betts for an 8–5 lead, and Martinez hit a single to center to make it 9–5.

Betts noticed center fielder Leody Taveras Bobble Smith’s hit and never slowed down around the third.

“It speaks to our club’s baseball IQ in the sense that you see a guy come into the game and he can’t find the strike zone, so you have him make pitches and walk when necessary,” said head coach Dave Roberts. “You see an opportunity to steal third base and create a scoring situation, we can do that, and Mookie with his head held high… these runs are important.”

Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol retired the team in order in the seventh, and left-hander Caleb Ferguson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth with help from the Rangers (58-40).

Josh Jung flew to the right, with pinch Josh Smith holding on for third, but Nathaniel Lowe, who was in second, raced halfway to third before he slipped and went down. Betts threw a hard pitch to Smith, who relayed a pitch to second baseman Hernandez, who scored Lowe to end the inning.

The Dodgers then had two more runs in the ninth as Betts made a two-out, two-run double over Taveras’ head for an 11–5 lead.

DeLuca’s web gems kept the score tied 4-4 in the fifth. Taveras hit an out to left-center, but DeLuca, making his first start since July 8, sprinted into the gap, covering 21 yards in 4.1 seconds, and made a full-length dive for the second out, hat covering his face as he sat up and tossed his glove in the air.

Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin pointed at DeLuca in salute. Three pitches later, Gonsolin shook his head in disbelief after DeLuca raced to the wall at left center, covering 98 feet in 6.6 seconds, and leapt to catch two feet over the fence to rob Marcus Semien of a home run.

Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin scored against the Texas Rangers in Friday's first inning.

Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin scored against the Texas Rangers in Friday’s first inning. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press)

“On the first one, the dive, I was like, ‘Okay, that was pretty sick, thanks,’” Gonsolin said. “And the next one I looked up and I saw the out fleece and I thought that was a home run for sure. How did it go. And then he just came out of nowhere, jumped up early and just floated away. It was really cool to have them side by side.”

DeLuca said he was “very surprised” that he caught the first ball.

“I kind of ran as hard as I could, did a courtesy dive, and ended up getting into my glove,” DeLuca said. “On the second one, I almost made it a little harder than I needed to. I didn’t take the best path in it. But it was fun to play two really good plays, so I’m excited.”

What did Gonsolin say to DeLuca when they got back to the shelter?

“Thank you,” said Gonsolin. “Whatever you need, I have you.”

DeLuca had a substantial order. Well actually two.

“Two steaks,” DeLuca said. “Medium, on the bone, sure, 32 ounces.”

The euphoria did not last long. Seager, who left Los Angeles to sign a 10-year, $325 million contract with the Rangers in 2021, greeted Vesia with a 434-foot home run to right center, his 15th of the season, to lead the sixth for a 5–4 Texas lead. Seager left the game in the eighth after suffering a sprained right thumb while sliding to second base.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the first when Seager walked and left-handed hitter Lowe hit enough on a full-count Gonsolin fastball, up and wide, at 95 miles per hour, to throw a 353-foot home run just inside the left field foul post.

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Gonsolin broke free of the opening hit to attack the side in the second – Jonah Heim with an 83 mph splitter and Travis Jankowski and Ezequiel Duran with 94 mph fastballs, and the Dodgers rallied by three runs in the top of the third for a 3-2 lead.

Rojas started with a walk and Hernandez hit a single to left field. Betts flew to deep center, Rojas taking third, and Freeman hit a two-run double to the gap at left center. Martinez followed with an RBI single to left center for a 3-2 lead.

Texas took the lead with another two-run rally and a hit in the fourth as Lowe walked, Adolis García lined up a left double, Jung walked to load the bases, and Heim and Jankowski hit sacrifice flies.

That lead disappeared in the fifth, as Freeman lined a first-pitch slider by Rangers left-hander Andrew Heaney over the wall at left center for his 18th home run and a 4–4 tie.

“We’re not going to stop,” Betts said of the Dodgers’ relentless 13-hit onslaught. “You’re going to play 27 eliminations. That’s it. The game is over when it’s over, but in the meantime, we won’t stop pressuring you.”

short heels

Clayton Kershaw, sidelined since July 3 with shoulder pain, threw an aggressive 40-pitch bullpen session, his second practice this week. The next step will be pitching to hitters in a three-inning, 45-to-50-pitch mock game on Monday at Dodger Stadium. At that point, the Dodgers will decide whether to activate Kershaw late next week or have him pitch another four-inning, 65-70 pitching mock game before returning. … Outfielder Jake Marisnick (hamstring strain) will be out for at least three weeks, Roberts said. … ESPN picked the August 6 game in San Diego for “Sunday Night Baseball”, changing the start time at Petco Park from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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