Freddie Freeman targets batting title; Dodgers earn first-round bye

Batting average is considered old-fashioned in today’s analysis-based game, a statistical relic that has been replaced by on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wins over substitution as more metrics. Accurate offense, and a batting title doesn’t carry the weight it once did.

“It’s okay with me” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman retaliated before Monday evening 5-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in front of a crowd of 44,854 at Chavez Ravine.

“I know people don’t put as much emphasis on batting average and RBI, but if you go into a stadium what numbers do they put on the scoreboard? It’s batting average , home runs and RBIs. If they don’t really care, then take them off the board.

Freeman’s batting average defense might get a little personal. The 2020 National League Most Valuable Player and 2021 World Series champion with the Atlanta Braves is poised to win the first batting title of his 13-year career, his major league-leading .329 average seven points better than St. Louis Cardinals slugger Paul Goldschmidt (.322) in the Netherlands.

Freeman has hit .300 or better six times before, but has never won an NL batting title and the accompanying Tony Gwynn Trophy. He finished second with a mark of .341 in Washington Juan Soto (.351) in 2020.

“Obviously you don’t go into any season saying that’s my goal,” Freeman said. “Scoring 100 points, driving in 100 points and hitting .300 are usually the goals for me.”

Check, check and about to check. Freeman, who hit .382 with 1.114 on-base plus hitting percentage, four home runs, 13 RBIs and 14 runs in his first 15 games this month, has 106 RBIs and 94 RBIs this season.

Freeman also leads all major leaguers with a .390 batting average (55 for 141) with runners in scoring position.

“That’s how you get points on the board,” Freeman said, in the first year of a six-year, $162 million contract. “I think they brought me here to drive races, so I take great pride in hitting with runners in scoring position. When there are guys on base, I want them to make turns at left.

Freeman didn’t generate any of those left turns on Monday night — he went 0 for 3 with a walk — but his teammates produced enough.

Joey Gallo smashed a 437-foot solo homer to right field in the second inning, and Chris Taylor capped off a four-run fourth with a three-run homer to back up the strong throw from Clayton Kershawwho allowed one run and six hits in six innings, struck out 10 — including five in a row in the third and fourth — and walked none.

Dodgers' Joey Gallo celebrates with Gavin Lux and manager Dave Roberts after scoring on a Chris Taylor home run.

Dodgers’ Joey Gallo, left, celebrates with midfielder Gavin Lux and manager Dave Roberts after scoring on Chris Taylor’s three-run homer in the fourth inning.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

It was the 27th game of Kershaw’s career in which he recorded 10 or more strikeouts without a walk, breaking by Randy Johnson previous record of 26. He induced 19 swing strikes among his 94 throws. He threw 11 pitches in the first inning, 10 for strikes.

“It was great on all levels” director Dave Roberts said of Kershaw’s exit. “I think that first inning set the tone, just the way I attacked. I know he always does that, but that first inning was different. Overall how he handled the strike zone , he was really methodical. … It was really fun to watch.

The southpaw won a duel of 12 shots with christian walkerwho fouled on six full throws before blowing on a 72mph curve in the fourth.

“I don’t care if he hit a million miles per hour to the warning track – I just wanted an out,” said Kershaw, who improved to 9-3 with an ERA of 2.39 this season. “It was time to throw a curveball. I had been throwing fastballs and sliders all the way through the bat, and Will be [Smith, Dodgers catcher] had actually called the pitch curveball before.

“I shook it and it foul on another slider, and I was like, ‘Well, it’s about time. Curveball, to me, is always, ‘Can I throw it for a strike or not?’ And luckily I threw it for a strike.

The battle was further evidence of Kershaw’s disdain for the march.

“You know he won’t back down,” Roberts said. “Christian and Clayton have a lot of history, so you have to find different ways to get him out. He messed up a few tough pitches, and I don’t remember Clayton throwing a 3-2 breaking pitch, but on the 12th pitch, he finally said, “I’m going to try something different” and hit it on a breaking ball. It was good to see.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw chases after delivering a pitch on Sept. 29.  19, 2022.

Clayton Kershaw allowed one run in six innings Monday night, earning the Dodgers a 5-2 victory over the Diamondbacks. I pulled out 10 and walked none.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Kershaw has allowed four earned runs and 14 hits in four starts since returning from his last back injury, striking out 29 and walking four in 24 innings for a 1.50 ERA in that streak.

“The health is there, the performance is there, the buildup is there,” Roberts said of Kershaw’s playoff value. “The preparation, the mindset, everything you can count on, so we’re feeling good right now.”

Kershaw improved to 20-11 with a 2.70 ERA in 41 career starts against Arizona. Right-Handed Diamondbacks Merrill Kelly fell to 0-9 with a 5.97 ERA in 12 career starts against the Dodgers.

Max Muncy sparked the fourth-inning rally with a double one-out to left field. Gallo’s RBI single in the center made it 2-0, Lux struck right and Taylor struck left for a 5-0 lead.

Dodgers right-handers Evan Phillips and Tommy Kahnle each threw a perfect relief inning with one strikeout.

Craig Kimbrel gave up a single and hit two batters to charge the no-outs in the ninth, but second baseman Lux bailed the closest with a spectacular diving backhand save from the smash to a jump off Sergio Alcantara to start a double play with a point. .

Lux went to shortstop Trea Turner for a force at second base. Turner then shot the runner down in third.

“I just try to keep the ball in the infield and try to get out there,” Lux said. “That was the main thing. Keep the ball in the infield to save some points. A double play is the best scenario. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, just try to keep it in the infield and get an out.

Kimbrel, who dropped out a three-point circuit at Alcantara on Wednesday in Arizona, allowed Daulton Varsho to go first as the Dodgers improved on their best major league record for 102-44.

With the win, the Dodgers clinched a bye to the first round of the playoffs, securing them one of the top two seeds in an NL Division Series game starting Oct. 1. 11. The club’s magic number to clinch the NL’s No. 1 seed is six.

The Dodgers spent last season in a dogfight with the San Francisco Giants, who won 107 games to edge the Dodgers’ 106 wins for the division.

The Dodgers were forced to win a wild card game against St. Louis and survived a grueling five-game division streak against the Giants, but were gassed at the end of the game. in a six-game NL Championship Series loss to the Braves.

“Man, what a difference a year makes,” Roberts said. “It’s not to make excuses, but I think [2021] stretching cost us dearly. This year we are in a different position as to how we prepare.