Royals @ Dodgers June 15, 2024: Yamamoto and the Dodgers look for a series win over the Royals

The Dodger offense broke out in the fifth inning last night thanks to some unlikely bats. Miguel Rojas continued his shockingly good season with a two-run homer off Cole Ragans, who was perfect through three and only allowed one single through four. Then, in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible happened. Chris Taylor hit his first homer (and only his 10th hit) of the season to tie the game at 3. Gavin Stone got the Dodgers through seven and pitched pretty well save for a three-run dong given up to Salvador Perez, and the Dodger bullpen held the Royals off the board. The top of the order got a bit fortunate in the eighth, as Mookie Betts singled and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw. That put him in scoring position for Freddie Freeman to single him in two batters later for the go-ahead run. It snapped a mini losing streak for the Dodgers and now gives them a chance to take a series against the surprise team in baseball.

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6:10 PM Los Angeles
3B Garcia SS Betts
SS Witt Jr. DH Ohtani (L)
1B Pasquantino (L) 1B Freeman (L)
DH Velazquez LF T. Hern√°ndez
C Fermin CF Pages
2B Loftin RF Heyward (L)
LF Melendez (L) 3B Biggio (L)
RF Blanco 2B Lux (L)
CF Hampson C Barnes
P Lugo (R) P Yamamoto (R)

Yoshinobu Yamamoto finally starts again for the Dodgers. Yamamoto last pitched eight days ago in New York and was absolutely stellar against one of the most dangerous offenses in baseball (sans Juan Soto, it should be noted). Yamamoto allowed four baserunners (two walks and two hits, along with a batter that reached on an error) over seven scoreless innings and struck out seven for the second consecutive start. Yamamoto threw a season-high 106 pitches and was originally lined up to start Thursday, but was pushed back to today for seven full days of rest. He’s completed five or more innings in every start since Korea and has struck out seven or more in each of his last four outings. That’s driven his pitch count up a bit, as each of his last four outings has been over 100 pitches but he has a 2.59 ERA/1.41 FIP over that stretch.

Part of the reason for the Royals’ surprise success has been a few breakout stars. Ragans was one of those, but Seth Lugo has quietly been very good for the Royals this season. His 2.36 ERA is the eighth-best ERA among qualified starters and he leads the AL with 91 1/3 innings pitched. He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher, with only 75 on the season and a 20.4 strikeout rate. He’s been much better away from Kansas City. In his seven home starts, Lugo has a 3.12 ERA and is allowing a .754 OPS against. That’s not awful, but on the road he’s running a 1.69 ERA and allowing a .490 OPS. He had a 1.72 ERA through his first 12 starts and only allowed more than two runs once in that time, but he’s had a rough June so far. Lugo allowed a season-high five runs over six innings on June 4 against the Guardians and last time out allowed four runs over seven innings against the Yankees. Lugo had a five game stretch where he was suddenly striking guys out (44 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings over five starts from April 29-May 18), but he hasn’t struck out more than five in a game outside of that stretch. He’s only failed to complete six innings twice and has gone at least five in each of his 12 starts.

Lugo was a Padre last season and saw the Dodgers once. He faced one over the minimum through the first three innings and the Padres scored four runs off Tony Gonsolin in the bottom of the third. Lugo proceeded to throw the exact opposite of a shutdown inning in the fourth. He allowed a leadoff single to Freddie Freeman and then got Will Smith to line out. After Smith’s out, Lugo allowed a walk and two doubles to plate three Dodger runs. He then loaded the bases with a walk and a single, allowed an RBI single and then served up a grand slam to Betts for an eight run frame before being pulled. Baseball Savant has Lugo throwing eight different pitch types this season, none more than 25 percent of the time. He’s thrown a four-seamer (23.9 percent), sinker (21.4 percent), curveball (15.6 percent), slider (10.9 percent), slurve (10.2 percent), cutter (seven percent), changeup (6.9 percent) (nice) and a sweeper 4.2 percent of the time.

Rojas and Taylor both sit with a righty on the mound, as Gavin Lux, Jason Heyward and Cavan Biggio are in the lineup. Austin Barnes is behind the plate today with Smith getting the night off. For the Royals, Perez is out of the lineup after leaving last night’s game with knee discomfort. The Royals haven’t placed him on the IL as of me posting this, but they did call former Padre Austin Nola up as a third catcher, potentially for the day game tomorrow.

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The Dodgers said earlier in the week that Clayton Kershaw‘s next step could be a rehab start. That’s happening.

Kershaw will pitch Wednesday in Rancho in his first rehab start. Wednesday will be a big day for returns, as Bobby Miller is also expected to return to the big league rotation Wednesday in Colorado.

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First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM PT and will be shown on SportsNet LA.

About Alex Campos

I've been writing about the Dodgers since I graduated from Long Beach State, where I covered the Dirtbags in my senior year. I'm either very good or very bad at puns.