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Will Smith Smashes Three Home Runs, Leading Dodgers to Victory Over Brewers

Will Smith had a chance to make history Friday night, but the Milwaukee Brewers decided to pitch to the Dodgers catcher with runners on second and third and two outs in the eighth inning, even after Smith had slugged three home runs in his first four plate appearances.

“I mean, yeah, absolutely,” said Dodgers closer Evan Phillips, aware of the moment’s significance as he warmed up during Smith’s at-bat. “I think everyone was on the edge of their seats… and I was certainly hoping that ball would fall in my glove in the bullpen.”

However, there would be no souvenir ball for Phillips. Smith did not become the 19th player in MLB history and the third in franchise history to hit four homers in a game. Instead, he drew a five-pitch walk off Brewers reliever Elvis Peguero to load the bases.

Freddie Freeman followed with a two-run single to center field off left-hander Hoby Milner. With chants of “Fre-ddie! Fre-ddie!” resonating through the Chavez Ravine crowd of 49,885, Teoscar Hernández hit an RBI double to left, capping a three-run rally that lifted the Dodgers to an 8-5 come-from-behind victory.

Phillips then struck out the side in the top of the ninth for his 14th save, following scoreless relief innings from Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson. The National League West-leading Dodgers ended a two-game losing streak by defeating the NL Central-leading Brewers.

“What a night,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Smith, whose third career multi-homer game gave him 14 homers this season. “One to right-center field, then one to left, and another off the foul pole… really impressive. He’s just so consistent, and he doesn’t get the recognition of being one of the top two catchers in the game.”

Smith had been in a two-for-34 slump before being benched for the finale of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox on June 26. He then went six for 15 with four RBIs in his next three games. Before Friday night, he had only two homers in 99 plate appearances.

But that power slump ended with a solo homer to right-center on a 2-and-2 sweeper from Milwaukee starter Aaron Civale in the first inning, followed by another solo shot to left field in the third on a first-pitch sweeper from Civale, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

Smith then hit a first-pitch, down-and-in cutter from Bryan Hudson, a former Dodgers left-hander with a 4-0 record and 0.99 ERA in 30 games, high off the foul pole in left field in the seventh for a solo shot that tied the score 5-5.

“I think that’s baseball,” Smith said of his slump-busting week. “There are always ups and downs. I just continued to work, made minor swing adjustments. Over the last week, there’s been better contact, and tonight, a few went out.”

Miguel Vargas, who hit a two-run homer to left to pull the Dodgers to within 5-4 in the fourth inning, led off the eighth with a single to left off Peguero. Gavin Lux grounded out to second, advancing Vargas, and Chris Taylor walked. Shohei Ohtani grounded out to first, ending an 0-for-5 night with three strikeouts on his 30th birthday, advancing the runners to second and third.

As Smith stepped up with a chance to join the likes of Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, and Mike Schmidt in baseball’s four-homer-game club, Roberts had flashbacks of former Dodgers slugger Shawn Green’s four-homer, 19-total-base game in Milwaukee on May 23, 2002.

“I was hoping for it,” said Roberts, the Dodgers center fielder and leadoff man in 2002. “Different venue, it was Miller Park then, but I was there.”

Peguero threw two balls before Smith fouled off a 98-mph fastball for a strike. Smith then took a sinker and a slider well below the zone for a walk.

“It’s tough,” Roberts said about Smith’s patience while sitting on three homers. “But with Will, that’s part of his game. He just doesn’t lose control.”

Smith said he focused on his approach. “It’s what I did all game,” he said. “I was just trying to make a good decision on what pitch to swing at and put a good swing on it.”

When asked if he knew how many players have hit four homers in a game, Smith quipped, “Well, I’m not one of them, so…”

The consolation prize was still significant. The 22nd three-homer game in franchise history was only the fourth by a Dodgers catcher, joining Yasmani Grandal and Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Roy Campanella.

“Those are obviously really good catchers, some of the best to ever do it,” Smith said. “Just to be mentioned with them is pretty neat.”

Smith’s big night helped take starter Tyler Glasnow off the hook for a potential loss after the right-hander gave up five runs and three hits in six innings, with the Brewers doing all their damage during a five-run fourth.

Glasnow was perfect through three innings, throwing only 37 pitches before his 31-pitch fourth. Brice Turang (infield single) and William Contreras (walk) reached to open the inning, and Willy Adames grounded a one-out RBI single to right field.

Garrett Mitchell walked to load the bases, and Rhys Hoskins then crushed a 98-mph fastball on an 0-and-1 count, driving a grand slam just beyond the reach of leaping center fielder Andy Pages for a 5-2 Brewers lead.

The rocky start continued a troubling trend for a rotation that was supposed to be the backbone of a championship-caliber club.

In seven games since Gavin Stone threw a four-hit shutout against the White Sox in Chicago on June 26, Dodgers starters have been rocked for 30 runs in 30 innings for a 9.00 ERA, giving up 42 hits, striking out 32, and walking 13.

Right fielder Jason Heyward was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a left-knee bruise before the game, but Roberts believes the team “dodged a bullet” as an MRI revealed no structural damage.

Heyward was replaced on the roster by James Outman, the center fielder who was demoted to triple-A in mid-May after batting .148 with three homers, 10 RBIs, and 40 strikeouts in 36 games.

Roberts said the left-handed-hitting Outman, who finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2023, will play center field against most right-handers, pushing Pages to a corner spot.

Heyward’s injury will also open up more playing time for Vargas, who entered Friday with a .308 average and .851 OPS despite starting only 11 games since May 18.

Vargas, the team’s starting second baseman before being demoted to triple-A during the All-Star break in 2023 and moving to the outfield at Oklahoma City, also began taking ground balls at third base, a position the Dodgers have struggled to fill since Max Muncy suffered an oblique strain on May 15.

“I think this Muncy thing has been a lot slower than we all hoped,” Roberts said. “Vargy hasn’t played third base in quite some time, but given where Max is, it made sense to see how it looks and give us another option.”

The Dodgers will call up hard-throwing left-hander Justin Wrobleski, whose fastball sits between 93-96 mph and touches 98 mph, to start Sunday’s series finale against the Brewers, according to a person familiar with the move not authorized to speak publicly.

Wrobleski, 23, was an 11th-round selection in the 2021 draft out of Oklahoma State. He went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts for double-A Tulsa and 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts for Oklahoma City this season, striking out 79 and walking 16 in a combined 78 innings.

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