Dodgers build early lead to power through Brewers, extend win streak to 10

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Los Angeles Dodgers' Miguel Rojas celebrates as he rounds third after hitting a solo home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
The Dodgers’ Miguel Rojas celebrates as he rounds third after hitting a solo home run during the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Usually, extended winning streaks take a combination of luck and skill.

On Wednesday night, the Dodgers had plenty of both in a 7-1 defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium, riding fortuitous bounces and well-timed breaks — but also more highly-productive star power — to their 10th straight win.

“Better to be lucky than good,” starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “Sometimes, that’s the way baseball is. And sometimes, when your team is going good, it happens. So we’ll take it. I’ll take it.”

The Dodgers built an early lead, benefiting from two swinging bunt singles from Will Smith and two catcher’s interference calls in the first two innings.

They got a solid five-inning, one-run start from Kershaw, making his second start since returning from the injured list, with the help of strong defensive plays from Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts behind him.

It all amounted to another victory for the streaking Dodgers. They improved to 14-1 this month, achieved a 10-game win streak for the second straight season and moved 10 games clear of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

“I don’t look at it, and I certainly don’t believe our players look at it, as August being the dog days [of the season],” said manager Dave Roberts, whose team won its first 11 games last August. “I don’t think that we start to get tired mentally, physically and hold on. We’re trying to play through October. So, I think when you have a culture and team of that mind, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Read more: Dodgers’ Miguel Rojas had his Lamborghini broken into and burglarized after game

The Dodgers (73-46) jumped ahead against Brewers starter Wade Miley in some unusual ways.

In the first, Betts scored after drawing a leadoff walk, advancing to second on a fly out to weak-armed Christain Yelich in left field, taking third on a swinging bunt single from Smith and being driven home by Amed Rosario’s groundout.

When a two-out solo homer from Miguel Rojas, just his third of the year, extended the second inning, Betts singled and meandered his way around the bases again, going to third on a hustle double from Freeman before scoring on a catcher’s interference call against Milwaukee’s William Contreras.

Contreras also had been called for interference in the first, when a swing by J.D. Martinez grazed his glove behind the plate. During Martinez’s next at-bat, the same thing happened on what initially appeared to be an inning-ending groundout.

“I didn’t know J.D. was a guy that kind of can draw that,” Roberts said with a laugh. “I guess Contreras didn’t get the memo that he might have a longer backswing.”

Protecting a 3-1 lead — Mark Canha got the Brewers (65-56) on the board with a second-inning home run — Kershaw tip-toed his way through the rest of the outing.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

He yielded a two-out double to Conteras in the third but escaped the inning when first baseman Freeman snared a line drive from Carlos Santana in the next at-bat.

Kershaw got into more trouble in the fourth — Willy Adames hit a one-out double, then Andruw Monasterio drew a walk — before being bailed out again by Freeman, who snagged another line drive and beat Monasterio back to the bag for a double play that ended the inning.

While Kershaw got through the fifth unscathed, thanks in part to a running catch from Betts in right, Roberts decided to turn to the bullpen anyway, removing Kershaw before the 80-to-90-pitch limit he set prior to the game.

Kershaw got his 11th win and lowered his ERA to 2.48, but collected just two strikeouts while giving up hard-hit balls (exit velocities of 95 mph or harder) on eight of the 15 the Brewers put in play.

“It wasn’t pretty tonight. I definitely was lucky,” Kershaw said, going as far as saying Miley “honestly pitched better than I did, he just had some unlucky breaks with the catcher’s interferences and some seeing-eye ground balls and stuff.”

Read more: Bobby Miller provides strong start as Dodgers break it open late to beat Brewers

It still was more than enough on a night the Dodgers’ other stars shined.

Betts reached base in his first four at-bats and scored each time. Freeman snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a two-hit game and benefited from a two-base error by Milwaukee center fielder Joey Wiemer, who misplayed a potential inning-ending fly ball at the wall in the sixth to allow a run to score. Freeman then scored on Smith’s third hit.

The Dodgers went three for seven with runners in scoring position while getting four scoreless innings from a well-rested bullpen, improving their run differential to a staggering plus-39 since the start of their streak.

“August is the worst month of the season for sure, it’s the dog days,” Kershaw said. “So for us to be playing as well as we are right now is fun. I don’t think any of us think too much of it. We just try to come out and win the next game. And just keep doing that over and over again.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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