When the Dodgers departed for a six-game trip to Philadelphia and New York last Monday, they trailed the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants by four games with 50 to play.
When their red-eye cross-country flight lands in Los Angeles following Sunday night’s 14-4 shellacking of the Mets in Citi Field, their fifth win of a grueling trip in which they played 22 hours, 2 minutes of baseball — much of it in scorching heat — and endured 2 hours, 37 minutes of rain delays, they’ll be right where they started, four games behind the Giants, but with 44 games left.
San Francisco kept the Dodgers at arm’s length by winning five of six against Arizona and Colorado. There is still time to catch the Giants, but the Dodgers can’t do it running on a treadmill.
“We can’t worry about the Giants — we just have to worry about ourselves,” said first baseman Max Muncy, who led a 16-hit attack with a pair of two-run homers to left-center field, giving him 25 homers on the season. “At the end of the season, it’s going to be how it’s going to be.
“These two teams are fighting for first place [in the NL East], and they’re pretty hostile environments on top of that. So it was nice to win a bunch of games and go home on a happy note.”
Max Scherzer overcame a series of defensive lapses to throw six solid innings, giving up two runs and four hits, striking out seven and walking two, to improve to 10-4 with a 2.69 ERA on the season, as the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Mets.
Leadoff man Trea Turner reached base five times, with three hits, and scored four runs, and catcher Will Smith hit a solo homer in the first — his third homer in three games here — and hit a two-run single in the eighth. Justin Turner, sidelined by a left-groin injury for most of the past week, hit a two-run homer in the first, and Matt Beaty capped the crooked-number fest with a two-run homer off infielder-turned-pitcher Brandon Drury that traveled 443 feet to right in the ninth.
“It was good for some guys to break out offensively,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Any time you go 5-1 on a trip, you’ve done some good things.”
The Dodgers also did some bad things Sunday night, forcing Scherzer to pitch through heavy traffic the first four innings.
With a runner on second and one out in the first, Smith fielded Pete Alonso’s tapper in front of the plate and hesitated before throwing late to third instead of getting the easy out to first. Scherzer escaped the first-and-third jam by getting Dominic Smith to pop out to third and Jeff McNeil to fly to left. Trea Turner dropped Justin Turner’s perfect feed on James McCann’s potential inning-ending double-play grounder in the second. The runners advanced on Carlos Carrasco’s sacrifice bunt, and Scherzer got Brandon Nimmo to ground to second.
With Jonathan Villar on second and one out in the fourth, Mets reliever Jake Reed hit a grounder that Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager fielded near second. Seager missed Villar on a tag attempt, and his throw to first was late, putting runners on second and third.
Nimmo walked to load the bases, but Scherzer got Michael Conforto to hit an RBI grounder to first to make it 6-2 and struck out Alonso looking with an 85-mph, knee-high slider to end the inning.
The miscues forced Scherzer to throw 15 extra pitches, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner needed only nine pitches to breeze through a one-two-three fifth and 14 pitches to retire the side in order in the sixth.
“I know the line score said Max went six innings, but he actually went seven-plus,” Roberts said. “We didn’t play good infield defense behind him, we gave away bases and outs, but he didn’t bat an eye. And that’s what makes him so great. He picked us up time and time again tonight and was able to limit damage.”
The Mets went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position Sunday and two for 29 in those situations in the series.
“They had runners in scoring position a lot, and in those situations, you just try to find the right pitch sequence and execute and try to limit the damage, maybe give up one run to prevent big innings from happening,” Scherzer said.
“Once I got through those [first four] innings, I was able to settle in and get through six, and the offense went off. And when the offense goes off, it’s enjoyable for everyone.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.