By Jon Weisman
Kiké Hernández’s father, you might have heard by now, is battling cancer. For Hernandez to hit a home run, on Father’s Day, is pretty much all the story anyone would need on this day.
The fact that Hernández’s home run, the first of his career as a pinch-hitter, stopped a shutout and tied the game for the Dodgers in the bottom off the eighth inning, well, that’s just a gift for the rest of us.
“I don’t think I have any words to describe it,” Hernández told AM 570’s David Vassegh after the game. “I still have a little bit of goose bumps from it, and it was a little bit hard not to cry running the bases. I woke up this morning, and I was thinking about the same thing: I probably won’t start, but if I get a pinch-hit at-bat, it’s kind of like a movie. … I’m sure my dad loves every bit of it.”
Hernández’s homer set the stage for another pinch-hit RBI, Yasmani Grandal’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee.
Adrian Gonzalez and Trayce Thompson began the final half-inning with singles, and one out later, Howie Kendrick walked. Grandal came up to bat for A.J. Ellis, and went to a full count before a no-doubt ball four outside from Tyler Thornburg.
Kenley Jansen was the winning pitcher, but Kenta Maeda deserved a reverse save.
Maeda gave up a home run to the second batter he faced, Scooter Gennett, and needed 67 pitches to complete his first three innings. But he used only 31 over the next three, and finished with a plus outing: 6 1/3 innings, six hits, one run, three walks and eight strikeouts.
Over his past five starts, Maeda has a 1.52 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. He has averaged nearly six innings per start despite being knocked out of his previous appearance by a line drive Tuesday at Arizona.
The leg that was blasted by Paul Goldschmidt’s shot up the middle seemed to be the least of Maeda’s problems. After reaching base on an error in the third inning, Maeda went to second on a Corey Seager single and sped right along toward third base — where, unfortunately for the Dodgers, he was thrown out.
That, combined with Chase Utley’s out at home plate on a short fly ball by Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning, contrived to end the Dodgers’ two best scoring opportunities against Brewers starter Matt Garza, who pitched six shutout innings.
Pedro Baez got five outs on 12 pitches to keep the Dodgers close, before Jansen pitched a perfect ninth on six pitches.
The Dodgers were a living, breathing rally cap in this four-game series against Milwaukee. Even in the series opener Thursday that they lost, they twice rallied from three-run deficits. Friday, Justin Turner’s eighth-inning homer tied the game before his 10th-inning walkoff single won it. Saturday, they bounced back from down 5-2 to win, 10-6. Today, the Dodgers eliminated their fifth deficit in four games when Hernández hit the first homer Milwaukee reliever Will Smith has allowed this year.
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“He came right in at me with a fastball, and I was looking for a heater,” Hernández told Vassegh. “He came in on me, and I put a good swing on it.”
To be clear, the following information does not represent the Dodgers’ goal. But for the record, they are now in wild-card position, having moved ahead of the Mets, Cardinals and Pirates to draw within .001 of the other wild-card team, Miami.