LOS ANGELES — The only signs of what could have been came with the faintest smattering of boos, a few early birds at Dodger Stadium expressing displeasure as Eduardo Rodriguez took the mound on Monday night.
Surely, when Detroit Tigers starter Rodriguez invoked his no-trade clause to axe a trade-deadline deal that would have been a godsend for the Dodgers’ rotation, there was no intent on offending anyone, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Monday. It was about his family, Hinch said. But there was certainly surprise from the other side, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters, “that he didn’t waive his no-trade to come here to play for a team that’s contending.”
And, oh, the what-ifs. On paper, the Tigers left-hander would have been a hand-in-glove fit with a Dodgers rotation that was limping to the regular-season finish line – in the midst of a career-year, former teammates with Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, carrying World Series-winning experience.
Except Rodriguez never responded to Martinez’s texts. And Roberts plays no what-ifs.
“I think if a guy doesn’t want to be here for whatever reason,” Roberts said Monday, then “c’est la vie.”
An idiom used often, in English, to signal resignation and thus farewell. And on Monday night, Martinez bid an emphatic farewell to ghosted texts and shattered rotation dreams, blasting two homers among his three hits and driving in five runs in the Dodgers’ 8-3 win.
“Everyone’s got their choices why they did it – he texted me and apologized why he couldn’t text me back,” Martinez said. “It was a family decision. I get it, man … obviously, we wanted him here, but it is what it is.”
The guy the Dodgers did get at the deadline wasn’t too shabby on Monday night. After an eyesore of a 2023 start with the Chicago White Sox, right-hander Lance Lynn had been better since his late-July trade to the Dodgers, but not overwhelmingly so: posting a 4.60 ERA in eight starts and surrendering 13 homers entering Monday’s tilt.
His place in Roberts’ postseason rotation, theoretically, should be set. But Lynn has had mechanical tweaks to make from his previous couple of starts, Roberts said Monday, and the manager said they needed to see “a little bit more out of the gate” in Lynn’s starts.
Mission accomplished. Sort of. Despite some early control struggles – walking three of his first eight hitters – Lynn’s four-seam fastball had notable life from the jump, getting five Tigers to whiff on the pitch through his first three innings. In the fifth, though, he ran into two-out trouble, bitten by a couple of singles before Tigers catcher Jake Rogers deposited a flat Lynn four-seamer into the bullpen in left field for a three-run homer.
Lynn’s line, though, showed enough – five innings, six hits, six strikeouts, three runs allowed – that he could reasonably take the ball in a mid-series October game.
“There’s been some mechanical changes, there’s been some grip changes, and trying to get back to what I was good at early on in my career,” Lynn said. “And starting to see signs of it.”
And it was enough, on this night, behind Martinez.
In the bottom of the second, the Dodgers’ designated hitter scorched a Rodriguez four-seam fastball over the right field wall for a solo shot, Rodriguez pausing and holding his follow-through in defeat as if he were a chalk outline at the scene of a crime. And the crime got worse an inning later. Will Smith capped a 12-pitch at-bat with a sacrifice fly to drive in one run, then Martinez followed with a three-run blast deep into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left field.
Martinez pumped his fist while rounding second base, crossing the plate with his 28th home run and 90th RBI of the season in just 101 games. Rodriguez exited due to injury the following inning.
And that, indeed, was life.
AROUND THE BASES
Martinez added an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. … Miguel Rojas went 2 for 3 with a solo homer in the seventh to continue his hot streak. … First baseman Freddie Freeman reached 20 stolen bases for the first time in his career. … Alex Vesia, Caleb Ferguson, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly all pitched scoreless innings in relief for the Dodgers.
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