Dave Roberts got the green light from Mookie Betts before leaving the ballpark Saturday night. He forced a reluctant agreement out of Freddie Freeman on Sunday morning.
A day after the Dodgers clinched first place in the National League West, the manager gave both of his superstars a well-earned off day Sunday — Betts’ first non-injury-related off day in more than a month, and Freeman’s first game off this season.
Then, Roberts watched his club complete a weekend sweep of the Seattle Mariners without them, riding big days from Jason Heyward and the pitching staff to a 6-1 win at T-Mobile Park.
As the Dodgers’ magic number dwindled in recent weeks, Roberts began planning the dual days off for when the clinch became official.
Convincing Betts to take a breather was simple.
“Mookie just texted me right now,” Roberts said amid the team’s postgame clubhouse celebration Saturday night, “and said he wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t play tomorrow.”
Freeman, who makes playing all 162 regular-season games an annual goal, was a tougher sell — prompting Roberts to initiate some “slow-dripping, preemptive conversations” with his first baseman about a post-clinch off day over the last several weeks.
“He set the precedent [last year], as far as once we clinch, he’ll take the day off,” Roberts said, referencing the lone game Freeman sat out last year in the same situation. “So I had to revisit that conversation.”
Turns out, the Dodgers didn’t need either superstar — nor other regular starters, including catcher Will Smith, third baseman Max Muncy or shortstop Miguel Rojas — to collect a third consecutive win.
Instead, Heyward continued his banner weekend while slotting into Freeman’s customary No. 2 spot in the batting order, going three for five with a first-inning solo home run, fourth-inning RBI single and seventh-inning ground-rule double. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage is now .865, on pace for the best mark of his 14-year career.
Backup catcher Austin Barnes had a two-run homer while rookie center fielder James Outman tacked on a late solo blast and fill-in shortstop Amed Rosario had three hits.
On the mound, the Dodgers pieced together another strong pitching performance, using Ryan Yarbrough (who got the win in a one-run, 4-⅔ inning outing) and Gavin Stone (who got the save by finishing the game with a scoreless 3-⅓ innings) after opener Shelby Miller.