Steven Souza Jr.'s home run helps Dodgers defeat skidding Diamondbacks

·5 min read
The Dodgers' Steven Souza celebrates his eighth-inning home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 18, 2021.
Steven Souza Jr., playing in his second game as a Dodger, celebrates his eighth-inning homer that broke a scoreless tie. The Dodgers won 3-0, sending Arizona to its 15th straight loss. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Steven Souza Jr.’s first visit to Chase Field since March 2019, since he tore his left knee to shreds stepping on home plate, since he doubted whether he would ever play in the major leagues again, couldn’t have ended more differently.

The bad memories inevitably entered his mind when he entered the building Friday. The struggles in his short time as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The injuries, culminating with that freak play in a meaningless exhibition game. He returned as a member of the Dodgers in search of closure.

He found it during the Dodgers’ 3-0 win in right field and in the batter’s box in his second game with the club.

Moments after crashing into the wall feet-first down the right-field line for a catch in the seventh inning, the 32-year-old veteran smashed a line drive over the left-field wall to snap a scoreless tie in the eighth as the Dodgers (42-27) handed the Diamondbacks (20-51) their franchise-record 15th straight loss.

“My tenure here wasn’t great just because of all those things,” Souza said. “So to be able to put that behind me tonight and play baseball, feel healthy and feel great with this amazing group of guys behind me was great.”

Souza’s home run was his first as a Dodger and first at Chase Field since he slugged five with the Diamondbacks in 2018. The contact — a 105.8-mph missile in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen — was loud. His reaction — a scream towards the Dodgers’ dugout — was raw. His trot — nearly a spring after almost missing first base out of excitement — was frantic.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my career,” Souza said. “Luckily I touched first. I didn’t want to pull a Ke’Bryan Hayes and miss it.”

He ended his gallop by carefully stepping on home plate, the spot where his career was nearly derailed, and pointing to the crowd.

“The last moment that I had here wasn’t a great one,” Souza said. “So I was more fired up that I could kind of erase that and put that really in the past and celebrate this one.”

The Dodgers needed the spark. The night began with the team continuing its struggles against left-handed starting pitchers. Caleb Smith, owner of a career 4.40 earned-run average entering the night, limited them to one hit over six scoreless innings.

The zeroes extended the Dodgers’ scoreless streak to 15 innings going back to the eighth inning Tuesday. The drought reached 16 innings before Souza smashed a sinker from left-hander Joe Mantiply. The Dodgers tacked on two more runs on a sacrifice fly from Mookie Betts and a balk before the inning ended.

The late surge gave the Dodgers a roomy lead thanks to Trevor Bauer’s performance. The right-hander held Arizona to three hits without a run over seven innings. He posted eight strikeouts with three walks, relying on a quicker tempo and more changeups and two-seam fastballs to navigate the Diamondbacks’ lineup.

Bauer’s pitch count hit 108 when Nick Ahmed hit a fly ball down the right-field line. Souza raced over and slid, leading with his left knee, to snag the ball before slamming into the wall. Bauer threw his hands in the air when he realized Souza had made the inning’s second out.

“It was spectacular,” Bauer said. “The whole time he was going over there, I was like, ‘Just stop. Don’t get hurt. Don’t get hurt.’ And he somehow managed to catch and not get hurt. Really impressive play.”

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Trevor Bauer throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers' Trevor Bauer pitched seven scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks. He struck out eight, walked three and gave up three hits. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Bauer then got pinch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas to ground out to end the inning and his night. Shortly after, Souza demolished a baseball to give the Dodgers the lead and himself a night he’ll never forget.

REINFORCEMENTS MAKING PROGRESS

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he expects Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger to come off the injured list some time during the club’s upcoming three-game series against the San Diego Padres.

Corey Seager could soon follow. Roberts said the plan is for the shortstop to go on rehab assignment “early next week.” Seager has been on the injured list since fracturing his right hand May 15. The shortstop took batting practice on the field with teammates Friday for the first time since suffering the injury.

Muncy also took batting practice for the first time since going on the injured list last Saturday with a right oblique strain. Roberts said he’ll return without a rehab assignment.

Bellinger has been on the injured list since last week with a left hamstring injury. Roberts said Bellinger spent some of his Friday at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training facility in nearby Glendale, working out. Roberts said the center fielder took batting practice and faced live pitching. He said Bellinger ran at 100% effort Wednesday.

“That was one marker and the recovery part was another,” Roberts said. “So those two have been checked and I think that in the days coming, make sure he just continues to keep strength in the hamstring. ... As long as we have that, he's in a good place.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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