It took 120 games, 125 at-bats and what felt like hundreds more frustrating little moments along the way.
But, with the Dodgers’ 10-game winning streak on the line Thursday night, Austin Barnes picked the perfect time to hit his first home run of the year.
With a line-drive blast to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning, Barnes broke a scoreless tie against the Milwaukee Brewers and lifted the Dodgers to a 1-0 win, extending the streak to 11 games while completing a sweep of the National League Central’s first-place team.
In a season-high streak that has been fueled by superstar performances from Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, improved pitching from the rotation and bullpen, and well-rounded production from the Dodgers’ platoon-heavy lineup, Barnes became the unlikeliest hero.
Entering the game, the longtime backup catcher was mired in a career-worst year. He was batting just .123. He’d driven in only six runs in 138 plate appearances. And he hadn’t hit a home run, a lack of slugging that highlighted his struggles at the plate.
But after catching seven scoreless innings from starter Lance Lynn, the ninth-year veteran made sure the outing didn’t go to waste.
After taking a first-pitch strike from Brewers reliever Joel Payamps, Barnes turned on an elevated slider, launching a low liner into the Dodgers bullpen.