The new-look Los Angeles Dodgers have started their lineup juggling in earnest and will give an All-Star a chance to catch his breath during the finale of a three-game home series against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
The Dodgers will get Mookie Betts off his feet Sunday, or perhaps more appropriately, give his sore right hip a break. Betts left Friday’s series-opening, 4-3 loss to the Angels after six innings with discomfort in his troublesome hip but was back in the lineup in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win Saturday.
Betts’ production will be hard to replicate, but the Dodgers still can trot out an outfield consisting of AJ Pollock, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger on Sunday.
Although Bellinger has struggled offensively after shoulder and leg issues this season, he hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning on Saturday. He now has a hit in five consecutive games.
Newly acquired infielder Trea Turner can take over the leadoff spot, as he did Saturday, with Betts moving into the No. 3 hole. Turner’s flashy debut included a walk, single, stolen base, run scored and solid defense at second base.
The Dodgers’ lineup changes did not end there, with Justin Turner batting fifth, the first time he has hit below the cleanup spot since Dave Roberts took over as manager in 2016.
“I’m just trying to fit in here,” Trea Turner said Saturday. “These guys are unbelievable. You look up and down the lineup, you have All-Stars, MVPs and got guys that have done it in the postseason.”
Trea Turner fits into that mold as well, winning a World Series with the Washington Nationals in 2019 and being named an All-Star this year. He will enter Sunday with a .321 batting average, among the leaders in that category in baseball.
The Dodgers will send right-hander Walker Buehler (11-2, 2.16 ERA) to the mound after a defeat Tuesday against the Houston Astros despite giving up just one run over six innings. He has two career outings against the Angels without a decision and has a 5.59 ERA in 9 2/3 innings.
The Angels will counter with left-hander Reid Detmers (0-1, 12.46), who will make his second career appearance. In his MLB debut Sunday at Oakland, the team’s top pitching prospect gave up six runs on six hits — including two homers — in 4 1/3 innings.
The Angels are in the midst of a lineup experiment as well with Justin Upton back in the leadoff spot Saturday. Upton had never batted leadoff until May 23 when manager Joe Maddon put him there as a way to combat his hitting struggles.
The logic worked as Upton went from a .188 hitter to batting .326 over the next 25 games in the No. 1 hole. Upton then missed a month with David Fletcher flourishing in the top spot.
With Upton struggling again in the middle of the order, Maddon is trying a little reverse psychology again. Early returns show Upton with an 0-for-4 performance and two strikeouts Saturday, while Fletcher had two hits in the second spot.
“In the three or four hole, you’re always trying to do bigger things, driving in runs and hitting homers,” Maddon said. “For whatever reason (if) you’re hitting (leadoff), your main objective is to get on base. A lot of times plate discipline enters the picture. Then all of a sudden, you stop chasing because you’re trying to get on base for everybody else.”
–Field Level Media