AJ Pollock shows no signs of rust in Dodgers' victory over Diamondbacks

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Los Angeles Dodgers' AJ Pollock celebrates with Justin Turner (10) after hitting a two-run home run.
AJ Pollock, right, celebrates with Justin Turner after hitting a two-run home run in the second inning for the Dodgers in a 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

When AJ Pollock suffered a hamstring injury earlier this month, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts initially feared the outfielder’s season might be over.

But since rejoining the Dodgers this week, Pollock has hardly shown any signs of rust.

A night after collecting two hits in his return to the starting lineup, Pollock stayed hot in the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, hitting an early two-run home run and making a leaping catch at the wall defensively to help the club keep pace in the National League West race.

The Dodgers (99-55) didn’t gain any ground in the standings Friday, staying one game behind the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Colorado Rockies in Denver. But they didn’t slip either, with Pollock’s 17th home run of the season punctuating a three-run second inning that gave them a lead they protected the rest of the night.

Pollock was already having a strong season before getting hurt earlier this month. And after a quick recovery process that didn’t even require a minor-league rehab assignment, he’s picked up where he left off, finishing Friday with a .297 batting average and 61 RBIs this season.

“I was always just going to push, push, push [to get back],” Pollock said of his rehab process. “Not cross that line, but get right to it.”

After the Dodgers squandered a two-on, no-out opportunity in the top of the first, Pollock helped keep the Diamondbacks quiet in the bottom half of the inning, taking away extra bases from Josh Rojas with a running, jumping catch in his old stomping grounds at Chase Field.

Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock runs into the outfield wall while making a catch.
Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock runs into the wall while making a catch on a ball hit by Arizona's Josh Rojas in the first inning. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Then, after Justin Turner put the Dodgers in front with an RBI single in the second, Pollock punished his former team again, crushing a 430-foot blast to left-center to make it 3-0.

Since signing as a free agent with the Dodgers before the 2019 season, Pollock has a .367 average and nine home runs in 30 games against the Diamondbacks.

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” Pollock said of his success in Arizona. “It’s a familiar backdrop. It was home for six years. So I always like hitting here. But I can’t put a finger on it.”

Pollock’s blast gave the Dodgers an important early cushion.

Despite out-hitting their hosts 10-4 — including two singles out of the six-hole from Turner, his lowest spot in the batting order since 2015 — the Dodgers struggled to pull away the rest of the night.

Kole Calhoun put the Diamondbacks (49-105) on the board with a solo home run in the bottom of the second. Then an RBI single from Josh VanMeter made it a one-run game in the fifth.

Those were the only runs Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin surrendered in a five-inning, seven-strikeout outing.

In addition to Pollock’s catch, Gonsolin also got help defensively from Gavin Lux, who in his second straight game in center field made a long catch in the gap and doubled off a baserunner to end the fourth inning.

“It’s incredible,” Gonsolin said of the Dodgers outfield defense. “You know that any ball put in play, put in the air, there’s a chance it’s going to get caught.”

After Gonsolin exited, the Dodgers extended their lead in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice fly from Will Smith. But the Diamondbacks remained in striking distance down the stretch.

In the bottom of the sixth, they got runners on first and second before reliever Alex Vesia escaped the jam. In the eighth, Blake Treinen allowed runners to reach second and third before striking out Calhoun to end the threat.

The Dodgers finally sealed it in the ninth, getting more good defense on two sliding catches from Chris Taylor, who took over for Pollock in left after pinch-hitting in the eighth.

“I’m not sure if I’m making either one of those plays,” Pollock, whose hamstring still isn’t all the way back to 100%, said of Taylor, who has been battling his own injury (a neck issue) but is scheduled to return to the starting lineup Saturday for the first time in five games.

“We might still be playing,” Pollock added with a laugh.

Instead, it was just enough to help Kenley Jansen secure his 35th save, and for the Dodgers to keep pace with the Giants with eight games to play.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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