An hour before first pitch, one of the game hosts at Dodger Stadium described Wednesday night’s game between the Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers as “Game 7.”
In a sense, it was… sort of.
Entering Wednesday, the Dodgers and Brewers had split the first six games of their season series — each taking two during a four-game set in Milwaukee last week and then trading wins in the first two games of this week’s rematch in Los Angeles.
“For me, it’s a little bit of preparation for the playoffs,” shortstop Trea Turner said of the recent games against the Brewers.
And in Wednesday’s series finale, the Brewers had a chance to join what has been an exclusive club this season — when only two other teams have gone multiple streaks against the Dodgers and won more games than they lost.
Alas, the Dodgers instead won the rubber match, beating the Brewers in a 12-6 victory in front of 47,216 at Dodger Stadium.
After a shortstop in the top of the first on a solo home run by Willy Adames, the Dodgers scored four runs in the bottom of the inning, sending nine batters to the plate and forcing Brewers captain Adrian Houser to throw 39 pitches.
In the third, they gave up another Brewers run in the top half of the inning on an RBI grounder by Austin Barnes.
Then in the fourth, they pulled away for good, getting a sacrifice fly from Max Muncy, a two-run double from Joey Gallo and an RBI single from Barnes.
By the time the night was over — the Dodgers got another sack from Muncy in the fifth and a two-run homer in the sixth from Barnes, who finished with four RBIs — the Dodgers had scored double-digit runs in back-to-back games for the first time from September 2018.
They also have a winning record this season against 10 of the 14 other National League clubs – losing season series only to the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates, split six games with the Washington Nationals and still have to settle their matchup with the New York Mets in Queens next week — and an eight-game lead for the league’s top playoff seed.
Is everything starting to feel a little too easy?
“Sometimes I feel like that,” said Turner, one of five Dodgers with two hits Wednesday. “But when you think like that, the next day you’re kicking your ass.
“I think we’re doing a good job of just focusing on what’s in front of us,” Turner added. “I know it’s boring, but I think that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in.”
The best part of the Dodgers’ (86-37) performance on Wednesday may not have been their offense.
On the mound, left-hander Andrew Heaney had one of his best starts of the year, going six innings for just the second time while striking out a season-high 91 pitches.
“I’m feeling better,” said Heaney, who has made five straight starts this month after spending much of the first half of the year on the injured list with shoulder problems. “Trying to get deeper into games, be a little more efficient on the field.”
That’s what Heaney did Wednesday, limiting the Brewers (65-58) to just one more run, a Hunter Renfroe RBI double in the third, while striking out 10 batters for the second straight outing.
Heaney has 62 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings this year, to go along with a 1.94 ERA.
“I think we’ve done a really good job of building him up gradually, and not too quickly,” manager Dave Roberts said.
“It’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here this year.”
Rehab updates for pitchers
For months, the Dodgers wondered how many of their injured pitchers would be healthy in time to help make the playoffs.
Now, the question changes, with the concern less about health, and more about how well their injured crop of relievers will fare when the postseason begins.
“Its kind of, [are they] quite healthy as well [are we] do you feel confident about the performance?’ said manager Dave Roberts.
The Dodgers currently have four pitchers on minor-league rehab assignments: Blake Treinen, Victor Gonzalez and Tommy Kahn at triple-A Oklahoma City. and Danny Duffy in the Arizona Complex League.
Starter Clayton Kershaw and reliever Yency Almonte are also on the injured list but are expected to return in the coming weeks.
The four relievers have all missed significant time – if not the entire season so far.
At this stage, however, Roberts said the Dodgers are “pretty confident that with the calendar, we can get everybody healthy.”
The bigger question increasingly becomes whether, after missing so much time, these pitchers will regain the kind of form that would warrant a spot on the club’s postseason roster.
“This takes a while,” Roberts said. “But these guys are easy to bet on.”
Lux sits outside again
Gavin Lux missed a second straight game with neck/upper back discomfort, but said he could return to the lineup as soon as Friday or Saturday.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.