Max Muncy homers twice as Dodgers beat Rockies; Mookie Betts leaves with hip flareup

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Mookie Betts endured a fairly miserable first half. He offered a self-assessment in one word: “bad.”

Beyond whatever statistics might not have measured up to his traditional levels of excellence, he was hurt. He had nagging injuries to his back, forearm, hip and shoulder. He even missed a game because of an allergic reaction.

Two games into a second half that had gotten off to a blistering start, Betts was interrupted by a flareup of the hip injury.

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In the seventh inning of a 9-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies, Betts hit his third double of the evening but slowed between first and second base, then left the game with what the Dodgers said was irritation in his right hip. Betts said he had first felt discomfort in the hip earlier in the game.

“I’m good,” Betts said. “I just made it a little more mad today than normal.”

For all his maladies, Betts never did end up on the injured list in the first half, and the Dodgers sounded confident he can avoid the injured list this time as well. Manager Dave Roberts, who said Betts has had to “manage” the hip injury all season, said Betts would not play Sunday, with the hope he can rejoin the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the first-place San Francisco Giants.

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Betts hit a home run. Max Muncy hit two, on a night he had four hits and drove in a career-high five runs. Muncy’s home runs traveled a combined 897 feet, although he had no regrets about not participating in the home run derby here this week and no interest in participating should there be another one here.

“It’s too tiring,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive those guys could do what they did the other night and keep going. I get tired just from the five or six swings you get each round in [batting practice]. I’m good on that.”

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The Dodgers’ Max Muncy looks skyward after hitting a two-run homer in the ninth inning.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

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Walker Buehler worked seven strong innings, giving up two runs and four hits. He made 53 pitches in the first three innings, then 40 in his final four. He retired the final 13 batters he faced, striking out six, with one ball leaving the infield.

Seven quality innings are welcome at any time, and especially so with a depleted starting rotation, but Buehler said he did not necessarily consider this situation as pitching under pressure.

“I don’t know if pressure is the right word,” he said. “There’s an expectation for the guys that are in there to save our bullpen and go deep, and that’s a focus of mine, so it all kind of works together, I guess.”

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The National League has four 10-game winners. The Dodgers have two: Julio Urias (12-3) and Walker Buehler (10-1).

Betts has seven hits in nine at-bats since the All-Star break, and 12 hits in 16 at-bats over his last four games.

The Dodgers' Walker Buehler pitches during the fifth inning  July 17, 2021, in Denver.

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The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler gave up two runs over seven innings. He struck out eight and walked two.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

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In those four games, he has scored 12 runs, and he had lifted his batting average from .245 to .271. The Dodgers won all four of those games, outscoring their opponents, 48-11.

“We go as he goes,” Roberts said before the game. “I think we’re going to be in for a fun ride in the second half.”

For fans prone to fretting, there is plenty to fret about. Cody Bellinger is batting .173. The Dodgers have two reliable and durable starting pitchers. Betts, the catalyst for a World Series champion offense, just left a game because of injury.

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For all that, and for a bullpen that played the first half with plenty of replacement parts, and for a team that has had its projected lineup intact for all of five games this season, take a step back, and a deep breath.

Highlights from the Dodgers’ 9-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.

For all that, the Dodgers have the second-best record in the major leagues. They are one game out of first place in the NL West. And president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, whose history of trade deadline imports includes Yu Darvish and Manny Machado, is on the clock.

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“We’ve got a good team, man,” Clayton Kershaw said. “We have a really good team. Seags [shortstop Corey Seager] will be back soon, and hopefully I’ll be back soon, and Andrew will do something, and we’ll be good to go.”

For the team that has won eight consecutive division championships, October is included in the schedule.

“Everybody wants me to be back as fast as possible,” Kershaw said, “but I also want to be as good as I can be in October.”

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