LOS ANGELES ― The lyrics to “The Drugs Don’t Work” by The Verve reverberated through the Dodgers’ clubhouse Thursday afternoon: I know I’m on a losing streak/As I pass down by your street. By then, most players were either on the field or on their way there, leaving few around to appreciate the irony.
As for the other 29 teams, they weren’t laughing after the Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 1-0 on Thursday for their 11th consecutive win.
Catcher Austin Barnes, who was batting .123 when the day began, hit his first home run of the season.
Lance Lynn, who had the highest earned-run average of any qualified pitcher when the Dodgers acquired him from the Chicago White Sox on July 28, traded zeros for seven innings with Corbin Burnes, who won the National League Cy Young Award just two years ago. Lynn has a 1.44 ERA since the trade, and the Dodgers have won each of his four starts.
“Better results. Better luck. Great defense behind me. It’s just been a little bit of everything,” Lynn said. “It’s been fun out here, especially pitching in front of the home crowd. Three of my four have been here, so it’s fun to pitch at this ballpark. I’ve always enjoyed it here. Definitely better as a home player.”
Lynn had a 6.47 ERA and only six wins to show for his first 21 starts of the season with the White Sox. Physically, he was built like an ox with a fuller beard than Paul Bunyan; statistically, he was a shell of his former self.
Since then, Lynn has transformed into a pitcher the White Sox rarely glimpsed. He’s emphasizing his fastball more. He’s leaning on his cutter less, especially against right-handed hitters.
More than that, Lynn is taking advantage of better defense since leaving Chicago. Opponents are slugging .424 against him as a Dodger, compared to .498 with the White Sox. According to Statcast, however, the expected slugging percentage of Lynn’s opponents is basically unchanged: .458 with the White Sox, .469 with the Dodgers.
Regardless of the reason, he is having more fun. With a 10 ½-game lead in the National League West, Lynn is pitching the Dodgers on a path to the postseason. The White Sox are mired in fourth place in the American League Central. Does that translate to increased adrenaline on the mound?
“Probably, to be honest,” Lynn said, “but it’s not something that I go in knowing that it’s going to happen or anything like that.”
Caleb Ferguson (7-3) pitched a scoreless top of the eighth inning for the Dodgers. Right-hander Joel Payamps (4-3) relieved Burnes in the bottom of the inning for Milwaukee. He threw just two pitches to Barnes, both belt-high sliders. Barnes pummeled the second pitch 371 feet to left field. It was his first home run since Sept. 20 of last season.
The dugout celebration that awaited him was nearly a year in the waiting.
“It feels good to help the team win tonight and scratch one across for them,” Barnes said. “The pitchers did the rest.”
A career .215 hitter, Barnes has been among the worst hitters in MLB in 2023. He’s grown accustomed to sporadic playing time since the day he debuted with the Dodgers in 2015, but that’s made it no easier for Barnes to work his way out of a season-long slump.
“It’s been a tough year for him,” Roberts said. “They’re always difficult in different ways, but for him personally this has been his toughest season. But he’s not a quitter. He works as hard as he’s ever worked. He prepares as much as he’s ever prepared. And for the game to honor him tonight was really good. I think he’ll sleep well and be ready to go on Sunday.”
The game was completed in a tidy 2 hours and 13 minutes. Evan Phillips locked down his 18th save with a scoreless ninth. Barnes and Mookie Betts each had two of the Dodgers’ five hits. Mostly, it was a game dominated by pitching.
The Brewers went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left four runners on base. The Dodgers didn’t fare much better: 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and five men left on base.
The Brewers were less than 90 feet away from scoring in the sixth inning. Torrance’s Tyrone Taylor led off with a single and reached third on a single by Christian Yelich.
William Contreras then hit a sharp comebacker to the mound. Lynn looked at Taylor sprinting home, looked at first base, then threw home to Barnes. Taylor tried retreating to third base, but Barnes ran him down for the first out of the inning.
“Right when I checked (Taylor) he stopped, then when I was about to turn to throw it to second, I saw him take off,” Lynn said. “I was like, all right, get the out at home. … It worked out well.”
Carlos Santana then lined out to Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman for the second out, and Sal Frelick popped out to end the inning. The Dodgers’ 12th shutout of the season was preserved for its unlikely heroes.
Austin Barnes for the lead! pic.twitter.com/nhEvFCkaYV
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) August 18, 2023