Van Slyke's HR helps Dodgers cut magic number to 6
SEP 10, 2013 11:58p ET
But two games at home have produced two dramatic wins for the Dodgers, and now they're moving closer to clinching the National League West.
Manager Don Mattingly still won't talk about magic numbers, but after Tuesday night's 5-3, 11-inning win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, there's no sense avoiding it.
So here it is: six. Any combination of six Dodgers wins and six Arizona losses will secure the division title for L.A.
"Everybody's excited about it," outfielder Scott Van Slyke said. "Obviously we're on a roll, and you want keep being on a roll and winning games. Our attitude's going to be the same if we're fortunate enough to clinch."
After losing four in a row on the road, the Dodgers have reclaimed the momentum they began building in late June. They hit six home runs Monday night to defeat the D-backs, and they got a walk-off home run from Van Slyke to win again.
But the final moment was set up by the pitching of right-hander Edinson Volquez, who had a quality start, and the relief work of the bullpen, which held Arizona to one hit over the final five innings.
It's doubtful, however, that anyone could appreciate producing the winning run more than Van Slyke, whose yo-yo-like season was almost dizzying.
In the past two months, Van Slyke has been sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque and recalled four times. He didn't make the 25-man roster out of spring training and wasn't called up the first time until May 10.
"Scotty has actually taken it really well," Mattingly said. "The last two or three times I've sent him down, he comes in smiling, knowing what's going on. He's been fine. He understands the situation."
Van Slyke came in to pinch hit for pitcher Chris Withrow in the 11th after Mark Ellis singled off Diamondbacks reliever Josh Collmenter. On the second pitch he saw, Van Slyke drove a changeup into the field-level seats in left, setting up a celebration at home plate and in the Dodger Stadium stands.
"I was just looking for something to hit hard," Van Slyke said. "Once Mark got on, I knew I had a chance, if I drove the ball well, he's going to run well enough to score. Luckily, it went over the fence."
Mattingly acknowledged that Van Slyke could figure in the Dodgers' postseason plans as a right-handed power hitter off the bench. In 108 at-bats, Van Slyke has seven home runs and is hitting .259. As a pinch hitter, he's 4 for 8 with four RBIs.
Volquez, meanwhile, gave the Dodgers six solid innings, although he was dinged for a two-run homer in the fifth by Didi Gregorius, who launched a fastball halfway up the pavilion in right. But it was still an impressive start for a pitcher who began the night with a 6.05 ERA.
In his previous start, last Wednesday at Colorado, Volquez surrendered four runs in four innings and took the loss at Coors Field, hardly a pitcher-friendly park. That didn't bode well for his future.
"Edinson hasn't had a lot of luck," Mattingly said. "That’s not a great matchup we give him first time out of the gate, a team that's hitting pretty good, a park that hasn't been very good to him. But he's been able to work in between starts.
"He was sharper, he kept the ball down more tonight. The thing Edinson fights is himself. He seems to get down on himself, but I liked the way he bounced back that last inning after giving up the homer to Gregorius."
And Volquez was pleased, too.
"Tonight everything was great," he said. "Finally I get to bring everything I was doing in the bullpen to the game and be consistent in the strike zone."
The bullpen and Van Slyke took care of the rest.