Shohei Ohtani hits two homers as Dodgers sweep the Braves

Dave Roberts seemed a little conflicted before Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves in Dodger Stadium.

The manager didn’t want to put too much emphasis on an early-May series against a potential playoff opponent, saying, “I just want to win as many games as we can,” but as he sized up a “great” trip in which the Dodgers won seven of nine games and a homestand that began with two wins over the Braves, he changed his tune.

“It’s time to get greedy,” Roberts said, “so yeah, we’re trying to sweep them.”

The gluttonous Dodgers did just that, riding a strong start by left-hander James Paxton, a pair of two-run home runs by Shohei Ohtani and Teoscar Hernández and another solo blast by Ohtani to a 5-1 victory to complete a three-game sweep of the Braves before a sold-out crowd of 52,733.

Ohtani put an exclamation mark on the sweep by demolishing a first-pitch fastball from reliever A.J. Minter in the eighth inning, sending a 464-foot homer to center field — his longest of the season — for his team-leading 10th homer and a 5-1 lead.

Paxton gave up one earned run and five hits in 6⅔ innings, striking out three and walking two, the latter number a significant improvement for a veteran who had walked 22 batters — eight of them in an April 14 game against San Diego — in 25⅔ innings of his first five starts.

The Dodgers won their 11th game in 13 tries, a stretch in which their starters have given up 17 earned runs in 75⅓ innings for a 2.03 ERA.

Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly got the final out of the seventh, striking out Adam Duvall, and right-hander Blake Treinen, making his 2024 debut after missing most of the 2022 and 2023 seasons because of shoulder injuries, retired the side in order with one strikeout in the eighth.

With closer Evan Phillips placed on the 15-day injured list because of a right-hamstring strain before the game, right-hander Michael Grove retired the side in order in the ninth to complete the brisk 2-hour, 7-minute game.

The Dodgers had only five hits, four of them by Ohtani, who followed a Mookie Betts walk in the first inning by driving an up-and-in curveball from Braves left-hander Max Fried 412 feet over the center-field wall for a two-run homer.

Ohtani also singled in the third inning and singled in the sixth ahead of Hernández’s two-run homer to right field, his eighth long ball of the season giving the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.

The Dodgers backed Paxton with several superb defensive plays, the biggest coming in the top of the seventh, when Hernández fielded Matt Olson’s leadoff drive off the right-field wall and air-mailed a throw to Betts at second base to cut down Olson, who was trying to stretch the hit into a double.

The strong throw saved a run, as Marcell Ozuna followed with a home run to right-center field to pull the Braves to within 4-1.

Third baseman Kiké Hernández fielded Ozuna’s second-inning chopper on the outfield grass and made a long one-hop throw to first for the out, Betts and second baseman Miguel Rojas turned a smooth double play on Chadwick Tromp’s third-inning grounder, and center fielder Andy Pages battled a tough sun while catching seven fly balls.

Fried, the former Harvard-Westlake High School star, was dominant in his two previous starts, throwing a three-hit, six-strikeout, 92-pitch shutout against the Miami Marlins on April 23 and six no-hit innings against the Seattle Mariners last Monday night.

Roberts countered by lining up six right-handed hitters — Teoscar Hernández, Kiké Hernández, Pages, Rojas, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes — in his lineup behind the left-handed-hitting Ohtani and Freddie Freeman.

On the bench was the left-handed-hitting Max Muncy, who clubbed three home runs in Saturday night’s 11-2 win over the Braves and had homered twice and notched five hits in 16 career at-bats against Fried.

“I made that decision before [Saturday night’s] game,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to keep Max fresh, and I think it allows a little bit of a runway for C.T., who’s also had success against Max Fried. We have a run of righties [coming up], so Max is gonna play plenty, but I’m also trying to find at-bats for Chris to get on track.”

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