Dodger Stadium

Kiké Hernandez Plays the Role of Hero as Dodgers End First Half of Season With a Win Over Angels in Freeway Series Finale

Enrique Hernandez hit the go-ahead homer in the bottom of the seventh and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Angels, 5-3, in the finale of the Freeway Series on Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

Not since M*A*S*H has there been a better series finale.

Enrique Hernandez hit the go-ahead homer in the bottom of the seventh, and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Angels, 5-3, in the finale of the Freeway Series on Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

Each team won three games in the series, with four of the six decided by one run, and the other two games decided by just two runs, proving the two local rivals are as evenly matched as they come.

"Those are fun," Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts said of the Freeway Series. "We're all fans and you get to see two of the games best go head-to-head, and that's always a treat."

Yasmani Grandal got the scoring started in the bottom of the second inning with his 13th home run of the season.

"I've seen Deck for a while," said Grandal of his at-bat against former Georgia Tech alum, Deck McGuire. "I faced him for three years at Miami when he was throwing a little bit harder. I got a glance of what I wanted to do against him in the game he pitched against us in Anaheim. I pretty much built my game plan around it, and it just so happened it played in to it today."

Grandal finished the game 3-for-3 with a walk and has hit safely in his last seven games at Dodger Stadium, batting .667 with six runs, three doubles, one triple, two home runs and seven RBI over that span.

"You don't want to be hot heading into four days of doing nothing," Grandal said of his recent surge at the plate heading into the All-Star break. "Definitely ending on a good note is always good, but you want to get hot halfway through the second half." 

Andrew Toles and Chris Taylor followed with singles and Hernandez brought home the second run of the game with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Two pitches later, Clayton Kershaw helped his own cause with his first RBI of the season on a single to right field, and the Dodgers led, 3-0.

"RBIs, that's what I need," joked Kershaw. "That means guys are on-base for me, so there must be something going right for sure."

Kershaw's run driven in was his 30th career RBI, the seventh most among active pitchers.

Kershaw labored through the first inning, but settled in from there, before running into trouble in the top of the fourth.

"They did a good job of laying off stuff there in that first inning," said Kershaw. "I was fortunate to get out of that, and I felt like I got in a pretty good groove there."

After back-to-back singles by Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler, Kershaw served up a four-seam fastball to Jefry Marte for a game-tying three run homer.

"The home run I can live with, but it's those two hits before that, I can't let that happen to start an inning," continued Kershaw. "It was frustrating you can't protect a lead like that, but guys picked us up today and picked up a big win before the break."

Before the longball, Marte had not had a Major League hit since June 4th.

"I thought I could get a fastball in on him and I missed a little bit up," admitted Kershaw of the home run to Marte. "I didn't think it was going to go out, but he put enough backswing on it to get out of the park."

Kershaw did not factor in the decision, allowing three runs on six hits with an uncharacteristic four walks, and eight strikeouts in six and 2/3 innings of work.

"I think the four walks there was some good pitches in there that didn't go our way," said Roberts of Kershaw. "I thought Clayton really competed well today."

Since returning from the disabled list on June 23, Kershaw has returned to form, going 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA with 25 strikeouts. 

"Coming back I think we've managed him well and I think he's obviously performed," Roberts said of Kershaw's eighth quality start. "No one works harder or smarter. I think if we look back at where we were a month ago concerning Clayton Kershaw we couldn't be more excited."

Kenta Maeda entered the game in relief for the second time this season and struck out Kinsler to end the threat in the top of the seventh. 

"That was probably the biggest out of the game," said Roberts of Maeda's strikeout to end the top of the seventh. "To have him at your disposal and to understand to go in the pen and be called upon when needed was great. For him to strand those runners for Clayton and for us, I just love that emotion from Kenta."

Hernandez played the role of hero in the bottom half of the inning, as he hit a lazer to the short porch in left field for his career-best 16th homer of the season.

Hernandez's homer was the Dodgers 129th of the season, tied for the the most home runs hit prior to the All-Star break in franchise history.

In addition to his two runs driven in on offense, Hernandez made two dazzling defensive plays at second base and in right field. 

"Kiké is right there for our team MVP at this point," said Roberts. "He's a plus defender everywhere. He's made plays all first half and with the bat, the big homer today. With his energy, it seems like everytime he's in there something good happens."

Andrew Toles added an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, and Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his 27th save of the season.

With the victory, the Dodgers close the first half of the season in first place in the National League West after the Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the Atlanta Braves earlier in the day.

The Dodgers are the first team in the modern era to fall 10 games below .500 in the first half of the season, and have the best All-Star break record at 53-43. 

"We're playing a little bit more now what we are," said Kershaw of the team's turnaround. "It's good for us to right the ship, and right the ship so quickly. We're in first and it's a good spot to be in going into the last two and a half months."

Up Next:

The Midsummer Classic. The Dodgers will be off for four days during the All-Star Break before they reconvene in Milwaukee on Friday, July 20.

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