By Jon Weisman
Throughout July, Dodger bats and relievers had carried Los Angeles through their first full month without Clayton Kershaw. On the final day before August, they summed it up in one rollicking package.
Behind 8 2/3 innings from the Dodger bullpen and a 17-hit outburst by the offense, the Dodgers rallied and then some from an early 3-0 deficit to defeat Arizona, 14-3, and finish July with a 15-9 record.
Bud Norris lasted only two batters and 13 pitches before leaving with muscle tightness in his back, as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com describes:
… Norris grabbed his lower back seven pitches into the game, shortly after walking leadoff hitter Jean Segura, bringing manager Dave Roberts and assistant trainer Nate Lucero to the mound. After a couple practice throws, Norris was allowed to continue.
But after Norris retired Michael Bourn on a popout after six more pitches, Roberts and Lucero again came to the mound and this time took Norris back to the dugout with them, as Ross Stripling took over pitching duties. …
Bud Norris (strained lat) said he'd have to get through a bullpen session before knowing if he can make next start. #dodgers
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) August 1, 2016
Ross Stripling, who threw three shutout innings of relief on 47 pitches Wednesday, relieved Norris. Stripling’s first batter was none other Paul Goldschmidt, and he had to face him with Segura on third base following a stolen base and throwing error by Yasmani Grandal.
After pitching carefully to Goldschmidt and walking him, Stripling induced a potential double-play grounder, but second baseman Chris Taylor’s glove flip wasn’t smooth enough to make it happen, and Segura scored the game’s first run.
Stripling pitched perfect ball in the second and third innings, preserving his 0.00 ERA in his first 10 2/3 innings of relief as a Dodger. That finally broke in the fourth inning, on a bizarre play. With runners on second and third, a pitch by Stripling somehow bounced off Grandal’s mask and inside his chest protector.
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The play was ruled dead, and Jake Lamb scored. Chris Owings then singled in David Peralta to put the Dodgers down by three.
But the offense roared back, unleashing 14 unanswered runs over the next five innings. Yasiel Puig, in his first start in 10 days, went 3 for 5. He scored the Dodgers’ first run in the bottom of the fourth after reaching on an error, and drove in the tiebreaker in the bottom of the fifth with a double.
Grandal and Corey Seager each hit three-run homers, and Joc Pederson homered for the third straight game. The Dodgers hit 30 homers in July, their most for that month since 2004.
For Grandal, it was his eighth homer of July, the most by a Dodger catcher in one month since Todd Hundley hit nine in May 2000, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Seager hit his first homer since June 30 (in fact, he has homered on the last day of three consecutive months). Despite going homerless in July until today, this was anything but a lost month for the 22-year-old shortstop.
By going 3 for 5, Seager finished July with a .386 on-base percentage while slugging .505. In the three-game series against Arizona, he went 7 for 13 with three doubles, a walk and the homer. Since the supposedly ruinous Home Run Derby, Seager is hitting .396/.418/.604.
He has 126 hits in 105 games — already the most by a Dodger rookie since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996 — and is on pace to finish the season with 194 hits. That would break the Los Angeles Dodger rookie record of 180 set by Steve Sax. (The franchise record is 206 by Johnny Frederick in 1929.)
Louis Coleman, Luis Avilan, Joe Blanton, Pedro Baez and J.P. Howell combined for five innings of no-hit shutout relief, with Coleman getting the win. The Dodger bullpen finished July with 106 1/3 innings in 24 games — an average of about 4 1/3 per game — with a 1.03 WHIP, 2.96 ERA and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings.