Unlikely No. 1 hitters look to fuel Dodgers, Giants

Two unlikely leadoff hitters look to keep rolling when the Los Angeles Dodgers and host San Francisco Giants complete a three-game series Sunday afternoon.

One day after Brett Wisely’s walk-off home run ended a 5-3 Giants win, the Dodgers erupted for seven runs in the 11th inning to draw even in the rivalry series.

In just his second visit to San Francisco as a member of the Dodgers, Shohei Ohtani homered out of the leadoff spot in Saturday’s 14-7 victory. He has also singled, walked three times and scored twice in 10 plate appearances in the series.

Ohtani has hit 16-for-40 (.400) after taking over the leadoff spot full-time since Mookie Betts suffered a broken left hand. Saturday’s homer was his seventh in 12 games while batting first.

The homer was his second in five games at San Francisco this season. Short of a postseason matchup, Sunday’s game will be the last between the Dodgers and Giants at Oracle Park in 2024.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts isn’t surprised to see Ohtani doing everything you’d expect from an experienced leadoff hitter.

“He’s becoming a much better overall hitter,” Roberts said. “He’s in rare air.”

Ohtani has met his match in the series in Jorge Soler, a transplanted middle-of-the-order guy who’s settled nicely into the Giants’ leadoff spot.

Soler is filling a void left when Jung Hoo Lee was lost for the season when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder crashing into the center-field fence in May.

The Giants tried seven other players atop the lineup before settling — at least for now — on Soler, who has appeared in 47 of his 940 career games in the No. 1 slot.

Soler went 1-for-4 in Friday’s win before leading off Saturday’s game with a double. He also doubled in his second at-bat and finished the day with an RBI and run scored.

Whether it’s the new look or not, Soler says he’s at a season high in confidence right now.

“My swing feels good,” he said. “I’m more in the zone and I’m making hard contact. I was missing a lot of balls, so now I’m like, ‘If they throw it here, I’m just going to swing.'”

Left-hander James Paxton (7-1, 3.39) gets the ball for the Dodgers on Sunday against Soler and the Giants.

Paxton has allowed just two runs and seven hits over 18 innings in his past three starts, a stretch that’s lowered his ERA from 4.19 to 3.39.

He shut out the Giants for five innings on four hits in an 8-3 home win on April 1.

The 35-year-old has never lost to the Giants in his career, going 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in three starts, two of which have been in San Francisco.

After using seven pitchers in a bullpen game Saturday, the injury-plagued Giants have scheduled another collection of relievers in the series finale. As of Sunday morning, the team hadn’t announced which reliever would get the ball first against the Dodgers.

–Field Level Media