Will Smith homers twice as Dodgers complete sweep of Mets with rout

Los Angeles Dodgers' Will Smith hits a home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Dodgers weren’t supposed to begin this week with an off day Monday.

Given the unexpectedly mild weather that passed over Citi Field that afternoon, it probably didn’t need to be either.

But, with (ultimately unfounded) rain showers threatening in the pregame forecast, the Dodgers’ Memorial Day matinee against the New York Mets was called off early.

Two days, three wins and 18 runs from a once-slumping lineup later, it’s hard to not see the rainout now as a blessing in disguise.

“I think that [off day on Monday] was a good thing for us,” manager Dave Roberts said.

“A lot of us took that,” first baseman Freddie Freeman added, “and kind of ran with it.”

Indeed, after arriving in New York this week with losses in five straight games, nine of their last 16 and a star-studded offense averaging just 3.5 runs per contest since May 10, the Dodgers left the Big Apple back on track by Wednesday night.

They took both games of a Tuesday doubleheader. They completed a three-game series sweep with an 10-3 blowout Wednesday.

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And, after enjoying an unplanned “work day” on Monday — when many of the team’s scuffling hitters stayed at the ballpark and hit in the batting cages even after the game was called — the Dodgers offense appeared to to shake its recent funk, exploding for 37 hits, seven home runs and the kind of top-to-bottom production that had recently been eluding their star-studded lineup.

“It was huge,” said catcher Will Smith, who led the way Wednesday with two home runs (including the 100th of his career) and a double. “We have a happy flight home.”

While there were some positive signs at the plate for the Dodgers on Tuesday — when they mounted a late comeback with 11 hits in Game 1 of their doubleheader, then tacked on 10 more hits in a Game 2 win — Wednesday was their first true offensive outburst in several weeks.

They amassed 16 hits, tied for third-most in a game this season.

They hit four home runs, one shy of the season-high they set on May 4.

Their 10 runs marked their first double-digit scoring effort in 13 games.

And, most of all, they weren’t overly reliant on any one part of a previously top-heavy batting order.

Stars like Smith and Shohei Ohtani, who hit his 14th homer of the season, were good.

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But so too were bottom-of-the-lineup bats like Miguel Rojas (four hits and an RBI), Miguel Vargas (one hit, one walk and two RBIs) and Kiké Hernández and Jason Heyward (two hits each, including a home run from Heyward).

“There’s been a lot of talk obviously about the bottom of the order,” Roberts said, referencing the team’s collective .192 batting average from Nos. 6-9 hitters entering the day — the worst mark in the majors.

“Today, you can see when they’re taking productive at-bats, getting hits, taking walks good things happen,” Roberts added.

Echoed Rojas: “We have to find a way to continue to do that every single day.”

The extra offense was particularly important Tuesday, when the Dodgers (36-22) essentially opted for a bullpen game that began with starting pitcher James Paxton.

Paxton was pitching on “normal” four days' rest for the first time this season, having gotten extra days off before each of his first nine outings this year. Because of that — the Dodgers made the decision to ensure their other starters weren’t off too long between outings, with Thursday’s upcoming off day — Paxton was limited to just 50 pitches over three scoreless innings.

The rest of the way, the Dodgers mixed and matched with six relief arms from the bullpen.

The plan almost backfired in the fifth inning, when the Mets (22-33) erased a three-run lead against Elieser Hernández and Michael Grove.

But then Smith broke the tie with a solo homer in the eighth inning, his second of the day. The Dodgers opened the floodgates from there, pouring on five more runs in the eighth and another in the ninth.

And the reeling Mets — one of the few teams colder than the Dodgers entering this week — melted down completely, their frustration peaking when reliever Jorge Lopez chucked his glove into the crowd after being ejected in the eighth.

In the other dugout, the Dodgers enjoyed an opposite set of emotions.

They had capitalized on their day off reset, mounted an immediate team-wide turnaround at the plate, and returned to Los Angeles with what once looked like an unlikely 3-3 record on this East Coast trip.

“It’s always good,” Rojas said, “to go back to what we can do.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.