first_imgA generation ago, someone asked Wally Joyner where home runs came from.“If I hit them, it’s because of two mistakes,” said Joyner, then the Angels’ first baseman. “The pitcher made one, and I made one.”The facts of life have changed.The Dodgers hit 237 home runs. Few were by mistake. Those long shots are the game plan, just like the power sweep was to the old Packers. Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season This, in their minds, is the logical answer to defensive shifting. The outfielders can’t sit in the pavilion.So that’s the task for the Atlanta Braves, who have returned to the playoffs ahead of schedule and are here for Game 1 of the Division Series on Thursday night.The Braves’ pitchers allow the lowest slugging percentage in the National League and the second-fewest home runs. The Dodgers lead the league in both categories.The Braves must be mindful of the quick strike, since 101 of L.A.’s homers have come with nobody out, and 49 have happened on 0-and-0 counts.And they need to be creative when finishing. The Dodgers have homered more times on 0-and-2 pitches (nine) than on 2-and-0 (six).But the intent is not mysterious. Only 15 of the homers were stroked to the opposite field. When their swings put numbers on the board, nobody asks about their misses.“It’s what (Angels general manager) Billy Eppler was saying when he talked about hiring a probability-based manager,” said Garret Anderson, the all-time Angel in terms of hits and doubles. “That’s the business model that is being used.“I didn’t have a home run swing. In 2000, I had 26 before the All-Star break but I was hitting .246. Mo Vaughn came over one day and said, ‘That’s not you,’ and he was right. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout, they’ve got that natural uppercut. But now you’re seeing guys model their swings that way.”Anderson’s career included 287 home runs and 2,529 hits.“I was worried about the batting average,” he said. “If your batting average got too low, you didn’t play. Today they don’t seem to care about that, or the strikeouts, either. So I’d probably try to do what they’re doing.”Bill James invented a “game score” to measure starting pitchers. Anything 80 or above is really good. Only 13 starters had a game score of 66 or higher against the Dodgers after the All-Star break. Seven were left-handers. The other six were right-handers with high-caliber weapons, such as Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom and Jack Flaherty.Related Articles Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco center_img The Dodgers have gone deep in 38 of their past 41 games. The last time they won a game without hitting a home run was Aug. 15, against San Francisco. They have gone without a bomb only 17 times since July 1.This is nothing new or unique in today’s baseball, but it’s difficult to grasp the extent of it when you’re watching day by day.All eight spots in the batting order, prior to the pitcher, have produced at least 20 home runs this season. They are betting that your pitcher(s) can’t cross that eight-lane street four times, against the light, without getting hit. Statistically, they are winning that bet.When the 1988 club got to the World Series and won it, the long ball was just a byproduct. It took those Dodgers 54.9 at-bats to hit a home run (according to Only 7.4 percent of their fly balls scaled the fence.In 2018 the Dodgers got a homer every 23.2 at-bats, and 10.9 percent of their fly balls landed in somebody’s lap, in fair territory. Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb was one of those lefties, with an 85 game score in a win on July 29.Staying close is Atlanta’s key. The Dodgers are 22-22 in one-run games, thanks to an oscillating bullpen, and their occasional struggles to actually construct a run.The Braves ranked No. 2 in the league in hits and batting average, and Freddie Freeman led the league with 191 hits. Nick Markakis was third. They, too, have lineup depth. They also won 23 of 35 one-run games.“I’m watching the wild-card game Monday night,” Anderson said. “Javier Baez is trying to hit a homer off a guy throwing 95 (Scott Oberg) in the bottom of the 13th (and struck out). Maybe you’d rather just try to get on base there. You get into October against the good pitchers, and it might not be that easy to hit home runs.”If it were easy, every Dodger would do it. On these given nights of the playoffs, they don’t all have to. Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies last_img

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