Will Smith hits three home runs as offense carries Dodgers past Brewers

Will Smith had one shot at history Friday night, and the Milwaukee Brewers were willing participants, choosing to pitch to the Dodgers catcher with runners on second and third and two outs in the eighth inning with the score tied, even after Smith had slugged three home runs in his first four plate appearances.

“I mean, yeah, absolutely,” Dodgers closer Evan Phillips said, when asked if he was aware of the magnitude of the moment while warming up during Smith’s at-bat in the eighth. “I think everyone was on the edge of their seats … and I was certainly hoping that ball would fall in my glove in the bullpen.”

But there would be no souvenir ball for Phillips to present to his catcher. Smith did not become the 19th player in major league history and the third in franchise history to hit four homers in a game, but he did draw a five-pitch walk off Brewers reliever Elvis Peguero to load the bases.

Freddie Freeman followed with a two-run single to center field off left-hander Hoby Milner, and with chants of “Fre-ddie! Fre-ddie!” still reverberating through a Chavez Ravine crowd of 49,885, Teoscar Hernández roped an RBI double to left to cap a three-run rally that lifted the Dodgers to an 8-5 come-from-behind victory.

Phillips then struck out the side in the top of the ninth for his 14th save, following scoreless relief innings from Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson, as the National League West-leading Dodgers ended a two-game losing skid in beating the NL Central-leading Brewers.

“What a night,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Smith, whose third career multihomer game gave him 14 homers this season. “One to right-center field, then one to left, and another off the foul pole … really impressive. He’s just so consistent, and he doesn’t get the recognition of being one of the top two catchers in the game.”

Smith was actually in a two-for-34 slump when he was benched for the finale of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox on June 26 before going six for 15 with four RBIs in his next three games. He had only two homers in 99 plate appearances before Friday night.

But that power slump ended with a solo homer to right-center on a 2-and-2 sweeper from Milwaukee starter Aaron Civale in the first inning, and another solo shot in the third, this one to left field on a first-pitch sweeper from Civale, for a 2-0 Dodgers lead.

Smith then drove a first-pitch, down-and-in cutter from Bryan Hudson, a former Dodgers left-hander who entered with a 4-0 record and 0.99 ERA in 30 games, high off the foul pole in left field in the seventh for a solo shot that tied the score 5-5.

“I think that’s baseball,” Smith said of his slump-busting week. “There’s always ups and downs. Just continued to work, mix in minor swing adjustments. I think over the last week, there has been better contact, and yeah, tonight, there were a few out there.”

Miguel Vargas, who hit a two-run homer to left to pull the Dodgers to within 5-4 in the fourth inning, led off the eighth with a single to left off Peguero. Gavin Lux grounded out to second, advancing Vargas to second, and Chris Taylor walked.

Shohei Ohtani grounded out to first to end an 0-for-5 night with three strikeouts on his 30th birthday, advancing the runners to second and third.

As Smith stepped to the plate with a chance to join the likes of Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt in baseball’s four-homer-game club, Roberts had flashbacks of former Dodgers slugger Shawn Green’s four-homer, 19-total-base game in Milwaukee on May 23, 2002.

“I was hoping for it,” said Roberts, the Dodgers center fielder and leadoff man in 2002. “Different venue, it was Miller Park then, but I was there.”

Peguero threw two balls before Smith fouled off a 98-mph fastball for a strike. Smith then took a sinker and a slider that were both well below the zone for a walk.

“It’s tough,” Roberts said, when asked how difficult it would be for a player sitting on three homers to be so patient. “But with Will, that’s part of the head. He just doesn’t get out of himself and doesn’t get out of control.”

Smith said he was just focusing on his approach.

“It’s what I did all game,” he said. “I was just trying to make a good decision on what pitch to swing at and put a good swing on it.”

Did Smith know how many players have hit four homers in a game?

“Well, I’m not one of them,” Smith deadpanned, “so …”

The consolation prize wasn’t bad. The 22nd three-homer game in franchise history was only the fourth by a Dodgers catcher, joining Yasmani Grandal and Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Roy Campanella.

“Those are obviously really good catchers, some of the best to ever do it,” Smith said. “Just to be mentioned with them in something is pretty neat.”

Smith’s big night helped take starter Tyler Glasnow off the hook for a potential loss after the right-hander gave up five runs and three hits in six innings, the Brewers doing all of their damage during a five-run fourth.

Glasnow was perfect through three innings in which he threw only 37 pitches before his 31-pitch fourth. Brice Turang (infield single) and William Contreras (walk) reached to open the inning, and Willy Adames grounded a one-out RBI single to right field.

Garrett Mitchell walked to load the bases, and Rhys Hoskins then crushed a 98-mph fastball on an 0-and-1 count, driving a grand slam just beyond the reach of leaping center fielder Andy Pages for a 5-2 Brewers lead.

The rocky start continued a disturbing trend for a rotation that was supposed to be the backbone of a championship-caliber club.

In seven games since Gavin Stone threw a four-hit shutout against the White Sox in Chicago on June 26, Dodgers starters have been rocked for 30 runs in 30 innings for a 9.00 ERA, a brutal stretch in which they gave up 42 hits, struck out 32 and walked 13.

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