The Dodgers and Angels had just completed the sixth inning Saturday night when, just after 8:30 p.m., Dodger Stadium went pitch black. The entire ballpark lost power for a few seconds before some lights flickered on, creating an eerie, perfect-for-2020 sight with cardboard cutouts dotting the stands.
A few Dodgers lounged by third base — Kiké Hernández reclined on top of it and let loose a scream of frustration — as the teams waited to hear word on the game’s status during the power outage. Players could be heard debating whether the game should be suspended — “Bang it?” one asked the umpires — before music and piped-in crowd noise from the two center field speakers surfaced to set the mood for the dim scene. Eventually, after a 25-minute delay, play resumed and the Dodgers won 7-6.
The night began with lights and a scare. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Dodgers entered Saturday with two MVP candidates atop their lineup: right fielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Corey Seager. By the end of Saturday, they were down to one.
Mookie Betts exited the game after he was hit by a pitch on the side in the first inning. Betts initially stayed in the game and scored the Dodgers’ first run off Angels right-hander Julio Teheran, who thew 52 pitches in the three-run inning, but was still clearly in pain when he returned to the dugout. Minutes later, he was replaced in right field by Hernández to start the second inning.
The injury, however, doesn’t appear to be serious. The Dodgers said Betts left for precautionary reasons.
Betts, 27, is batting .292 with 16 home runs and a .928 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 55 games. His 3.3 bWAR led all major leaguers. He has been one of the best players one the best team in the majors this season, putting him in contention to win his second career MVP award.
Seager, meanwhile, has established a strong case for his first.
The Dodgers (42-17) weren’t exactly sure what they would get from Seager this season. It wasn’t a question of talent. It was a question of health. After establishing himself as one of the best hitters in baseball in his first two full seasons, Seager missed most of the 2018 season after Tommy John and hip surgeries. He returned in 2019 but wasn’t himself and had his hottest stretch of the season interrupted by a hamstring strain.
This year, Seager has hit the ball hard as anyone — he began Saturday with the highest barreled-ball rate in the majors — and put together one of the best offensive seasons ever by a shortstop not named Alex Rodriguez though in a significantly smaller sample size.
“Last year, especially, I just wasn’t physically as strong as I’d have liked to have been,” he said. “Your body kind of changes. You get tired, things start changing positions on you. Just being strong again and being healthy again has definitely helped that.”
Before going 0 or 4 Saturday, Seager entered the day sixth in the National League in OPS (.978), tied for sixth in home runs (15), and 10th in batting average (.319). His 161 wRC+ — an all-encompassing offensive metric — suggested he was 61 percent better than the average player. He ranked sixth in the category while playing one of the more demanding positions on the diamond.
“His body feels 100% better,” Dodgers co-hitting coach Brant Brown said. “That and having an entire offseason to train was huge. What he’s doing at the plate is very special and I think it shows the skill set that he actually has when he’s healthy. “
Seager’s prowess prompted the Dodgers to move him up to second in the batting order in mid-August.
They originally planned to move him back to fifth, but his continued success combined with sustained struggles from Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy, have undoubtedly made him the best option to sandwich between Betts and Justin Turner.
“He’s had a fantastic season and I think to be able to get him up five times, left and right, splits don’t matter.” Dodgers manager Dave Robers said. “The combo of him and Mookie and now [Turner], 1, 2, 3, I think is as good quality at-bat as anybody in baseball.”
Pederson’s spot uncertain
Joc Pederson has enjoyed ample postseason success in his career, but there’s a chance he won’t make the Dodgers’ playoff roster.
The outfielder hit a two-run home run Saturday, but has had his worst major league season while recently dealing with a personal family matter that has required him to take time away from the team
Roberts, acknowledging Pederson’s off-field situation, said the club has attempted to get him on track by keeping him in the lineup but nothing beyond Sunday’s regular-season finale is guaranteed. Pederson is batting .185 with seven home runs and a .671 OPS in 42 games.
“I just want to give him every opportunity to try to get locked in,” Roberts said.
Staff writer Maria Torres contributed to this report.