Hernandez blasts grand slam, lifts Dodgers to shutout of Padres

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Teoscar Hernandez launched a huge grand slam while James Paxton delivered on the mound to lift the Dodgers in a 5-0 victory.

SAN DIEGO — Paxton gathered his fifth win (5-0) of the season across six solid innings of work. Gus Varland, Ryan Yarbrough and J.P. Feyereisen were flawless behind him to keep the Padres off of the board for the remainder of the contest.

Freddie Freeman and Teoscar Hernandez provided the run support for Los Angeles with a home run each. Hernandez’s grand slam boosted the Dodgers out to a 5-0 lead and extended his NL-leading RBI mark to 33. There was concern for Shohei Ohtani, who was pinch-hit for in the top of the eighth inning. Postgame reports revealed that he was dealing with back tightness and was taken out for precautionary reasons. While it doesn’t initially seem to be anything serious, there is a chance that he will be out of the lineup on Sunday in the final game of the series.

The Dodgers (now 27-14) secured the win to spoil a game played in front of the largest crowd ever at Petco Park. 46, 701 fans watched on as Los Angeles managed to force the rubber match and improve to 3-4 against San Diego this season.

Here are three takeaways:

Paxton shreds to stay undefeated

Lefty James Paxton kept his superb start to the season going against the Padres on Saturday night. The 11-year veteran struck out four batters and allowed just four hits during his start. His 95 pitches, 66 of which were strikes, were tied for the third-most he’s thrown in a start this year. His ERA is down to 2.58 as he made sure to follow up Tyler Glasnow with yet another promising performance from a Dodgers’ starting pitcher.

Paxton pitched 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth as he helped keep Manny Machado and Xander Boagerts hitless. He did a solid job limiting the effectiveness of a Padres team that has the fourth-best team batting average in the big leagues. The 4-9 spots in the San Diego lineup especially struggled, only managing to tally two hits throughout the entire game.

He is only two wins away from reaching his previous year’s total of 7 despite appearing in just seven starts so far. He should be well on pace to cruise past that number and secure his first double-digit win season since 2019 with the Yankees. His excellent work on Saturday night was huge in the victory.

Hernandez provides the big hit

It was a night to remember for a pair of Dodgers – James Paxton and Teoscar Hernandez – who were both new additions to the squad this offseason. With Paxton in cruise control on the mound, Hernandez made sure to give him all the run support that he would need to finish with a win. He blasted his 11th home run of the year, a 390-foot grand slam that bolstered the Los Angeles lead.

The slam rudely welcomed Padres’ reliever Enyel De Los Santos into the game, with Hernandez making him pay as the first batter he faced. He is now tied with Shohei Ohtani for the team lead in home runs and is just one behind the MLB lead.

He now has a home run in each of the last three series that the Dodgers have played in, contributing as a huge factor in the team’s recent surge. He is also well on pace to deliver his fourth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs and an OPS of at least .740.

The nine-year veteran out of the Dominican Republic provided the team’s only hit of the evening with runners in scoring position. Without Hernandez, the squad was 0-9 in such situations and struggled for the second straight night to cash in during their opportunities. His big home run helped save what was an overall rough day at the plate for Los Angeles as they still managed to get the job done.

Freeman’s power heating up

While the average and on-base percentage have been there (as expected) to start the year for Freddie Freeman, the power has seemed to lag behind. The Dodgers’ first-baseman has started to pick it up as of late, however, and drove his fourth home run of the year in the top of the first inning.

It was his second home run of the last five games after starting the season with just two across the months of March and April. He finished the game 2-3 at the plate, adding on a double and an intentional walk. His average is up to .309 this season, making him the fourth player in the Los Angeles lineup this season with an average of .300 or higher. The team’s .264 combined average currently leads all of baseball.

Freeman’s .418 OBP is the fifth-best in the major leagues, making him the third Dodger to be in the top five of the category. Mookie Betts (first) and Shohei Ohtani (third) also appear on the list. While it is always a welcome sight to see him getting on base at such an efficient rate, seeing the power slowly come to life makes the Los Angeles lineup even more dangerous going forward. He will look to deliver his fourth season in a row with at least 20 home runs.

The Dodgers and Padres will meet in the rubber match of the series on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 p.m. as Los Angeles looks to steal the series on the road. They will start Walker Buehler (0-0, 6.75 ERA) for just the second time this year as he squares off against San Diego’s Yu Darvish (2-1, 2.94 ERA). A win for the Dodgers would be the ninth of their last ten and push their division lead over the Padres to 7.5 games.