Dodgers strike early, avoid sweep with 7-1 win over Nats

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LOS ANGELES — Hanser Alberto had a two-run double during the Dodgers’ six-run first inning, and Los Angeles emphatically avoided an improbable series sweep with a 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.

Gavin Lux had three hits and drove in two runs, while Mookie Betts reached base four times for the NL-leading Dodgers. Los Angeles had won 19 of 21 before curiously losing its first two this week against the major league-worst Nationals.

Andrew Heaney threw four innings of scoreless, one-hit ball in his return from a lengthy injury absence in the finale of Los Angeles’ 5-2 homestand after hosting the All-Star Game.

The Dodgers chased Nats starter Patrick Corbin when their first 10 batters combined for seven hits – two by Betts – and a walk while making just two outs on 45 pitches. Corbin (4-14) had the shortest start of his 11-year major league career, failing to get out of the first inning for the first time in his 250 starts.

Maikel Franco‘s infield single leading off the third inning was the Nationals’ only hit until the seventh, when Luis Garcia drove in their lone run with a ground-rule double.

Juan Soto went hitless amid another round of “Future Dodger!” chants in Chavez Ravine as Washington capped its six-game West Coast road trip by falling just short of its first four-game winning streak of the season.

And one day after the second-place Padres made up a game in the NL West race on Los Angeles for the first time since July 3, the Dodgers calmly pushed their lead back to 11 1/2 games.

Heaney had pitched just once since April 17 due to shoulder problems, but he has been outstanding when healthy in his first season with the Dodgers: He lowered his ERA to 0.47 with three walks and four strikeouts while on a strict pitch count.

Alex Vesia (3-0) pitched a scoreless sixth.

The Dodgers’ massive first inning began with a leadoff double off the wall by Betts, who missed hitting a leadoff homer for the second consecutive day by a few feet. Justin Turner drove in Betts while playing just his second game since July 16 due to a nagging abdominal injury, and Trayce Thompson added an RBI single before Alberto’s drive to right-center and Austin Barnes‘ RBI single.

Lux then got credit for an RBI double when Victor Robles and Soto allowed his long fly ball to land between them in right-center, and Betts chased Corbin with an infield single.

EVERYDAY TREA

Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double in the fourth. The All-Star has a hit in 83 of his 97 games this season.

ROSTER MOVE

Heaney returned from the injured list before the game. To make room for Heaney and right-handed reliever Jake Reed, who gave up three hits and a run in 1 1/3 innings of relief, the Dodgers optioned LHP Garrett Cleavinger and RHP Mitch White.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: RHP Tommy Kahnle (right elbow) is unlikely to return before September, manager Dave Roberts said. RHP Blake Treinen (right shoulder) and RHP Brusdar Graterol (right shoulder) could return in August, before the rosters expand. … Freddie Freeman singled and drew a walk before Jake Lamb replaced him at first base to start the fifth inning, apparently to rest the six-time All-Star selection.

UP NEXT

Nationals: After a day off, Anibal Sanchez (0-2, 6.30 ERA) takes the mound Friday when Washington opens a three-game weekend home series against St. Louis.

Dodgers: All-Star Tyler Anderson (10-1, 2.79 ERA) takes the mound at Coors Field on Thursday to open a four-game series with the Colorado Rockies.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.