On a day Major League Baseball announced the reserves for the All-Star game, it was Albert Pujols — a 41-year-old future Hall of Famer signed two months ago as a platoon player six years removed from his 10th and likely final All-Star appearance — delivering the hit the Dodgers needed the most in their 5-1 matinee win Sunday over the Washington Nationals.
The score was tied when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts summoned Pujols, usually limited to at-bats opposite left-handers, to pinch-hit against right-hander Joe Ross. To that point, Ross was dealing, having just recorded his 11th strikeout. But Gavin Lux was at second base after a leadoff double and Pujols smelled the RBI.
He generated it by lining a sinker down the left-field line for a single to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Roberts had Tony Gonsolin, a pitcher, pinch-run for the slow-footed first baseman and the move proved prescient when Gonsolin scored from first base on Max Muncy’s double to the right-center field gap. Muncy added a two-run double in the ninth inning.
Muncy finished the series with nine RBI. Pujols had one in each of the four games. He’s produced 20 in 34 games since joining the Dodgers, increasing his career total to 2,132.
“He can still hit,” Muncy said of Pujols. “He’s unbelievable. He’s still got so much juice left in that bat.”
Eight relievers, starting with left-hander Garrett Cleavinger and ending with closer Kenley Jansen, held the Nationals (40-42) to one run on eight hits as the Dodgers (53-31) completed a four-game sweep and extended their winning streak to a season-high nine games. The win moved the Dodgers into a tie for first place in the National League West with the San Francisco Giants, who are scheduled to play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday night.
“The bullpen was fantastic,” Roberts said. “All hands on deck today…. It was special.”
Trevor Bauer was scheduled to start Sunday until he was placed on seven-day paid administrative leave Friday after a woman accused him of sexual assault and obtained a temporary restraining order against him Tuesday. That left the Dodgers, without a viable option to make a conventional start Sunday, in a tricky situation further complicated by rain shortening Clayton Kershaw’s start to four innings Saturday.
A short turnaround didn’t help. Saturday’s game ended at 12:32 a.m. Sunday after a rain delay of nearly two hours. Sunday’s first pitch was thrown at 11:07 a.m. — a Fourth of July tradition at Nationals Park. Roberts acknowledged the scheduling presented an injury risk.
“I don’t know whose idea it was to have a 7 p.m. game followed by an 11 a.m. game,” Muncy said. “That’s one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen. It’s how guys get hurt.”
In the end, both clubs emerged unscathed and headed to the airport. The Nationals traveled to San Diego. The Dodgers flew to Miami ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa. They open a four-game series against the Marlins on Monday, plowing ahead with contributions from everyone on the roster, All-Stars past and present.
The Dodgers recalled right-hander Edwin Uceta and optioned right-hander Brusdar Graterol before Sunday’s game. Graterol was put on the roster Friday to replace Bauer. He pitched Friday and Saturday. Uceta, who didn’t pitch Sunday, has appeared in eight games for the Dodgers this season. … Three Dodgers were hit by pitches Sunday. Two — Austin Barnes and Justin Turner — were hit in the head area but stayed in the game. Ross plunked Barnes with a 94-mph fastball off the helmet in the fourth inning. Turner took a 91-mph pitch in the ninth inning that bounced off his shoulder before ricocheting off the brim of his helmet and face.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.