Posted September 10, 2013

Juan Uribe homers three times against Diamondbacks

Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Uribe hit three homers for the first time in his career Monday night. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Juan Uribe hit three homers for the first time in his career Monday night. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Juan Uribe spent the past two seasons — his first as part of a three-year, $21 million free-agent deal — as a punchline, drastically underproducing when he wasn’t out of the lineup with injuries. He’s been an integral part of the Dodgers’ success this year, and on Monday night, he underscored that via the first three-homer game of his career, hitting one more than he managed all of last year. His hat trick was part of a six-homer barrage that carried the Dodgers to an 8-1 win over the Diamondbacks.

Uribe’s first homer, his eighth of the year, came off Arizona starter Randall Delgado in the second inning, a solo shot to left field that immediately followed one by Andre Ethier. From MLB.com, as narrated by Vin Scully:

Two batters before he came up again in the third, Adrian Gonzalez clouted a two-run homer off Delgado, and Uribe followed with another solo homer to left to run the score to 5-0:

Three batters after Hanley Ramirez led off the fifth by greeting reliever Eury De La Rosa with his own entry in the solo homer sweepstakes, Uribe connected for his third, this time going to center:

Fittingly, Uribe celebrated that homer with Ramirez and Yasiel Puig as he returned to the Dodgers’ dugout. Along with Gonzalez, those two players, who came into Monday tied for the team lead among position players with 4.7 Wins Above Replacement, have been the only ones in the lineup more valuable than Uribe. His four-hit night (he legged out an infield single off Heath Bell in the seventh) lifted his season line to .279/.334/.426 with 10 homers in 368 plate appearances. Including strong defense — 11 runs above average according to Defensive Runs Saved, 13 above average according to Ultimate Zone Rating — he came in having produced 2.7 WAR, his highest total since 2009. He’s been credited as a positive influence in the clubhouse as well, and his sartorial sensibility has … drawn notice, to say the least.

After helping the Giants to a world championship in 2010, Uribe signed his big deal with the Dodgers, but spent the past two seasons hitting an abysmal .199/.262/.552 with six homers in 474 plate appearances en route to −0.3 WAR. Injuries have been part of that collapse; he played just 143 games while losing another 102 to three trips to the disabled list, two for a sports hernia and one for wrist inflammation. He began this year sharing the job with Luis Cruz, but the latter’s cratering (.127/.175/.169 in 128 PA) opened the door to more playing time. While his best month (.327/.377/.418 in May) was wasted on a 10-17 skid that sent the Dodgers to the NL West basement, Uribe settled into more consistent duty in late June, shortly before the team reeled off a 42-8 stretch that left the rest of the division in the dust.

Uribe’s three-homer game was the majors’ eighth of the season, and the first for the Dodgers since Andre Ethier went yard thrice against the Mariners on June 26, 2009. His single prevented him from joining Shawn Green in the annals as the only Dodgers ever to homer four times in one game. Green, who did so on May 23, 2002 against the Brewers, was in attendance at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

The Dodgers’ six homers were the most they’ve hit since the seven they put on the board on Sept. 18, 2006 against the Padres. That was the night Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson hit consecutive solo homers in the ninth inning to surmount a four-run deficit. They won that game in the 10th via Nomar Garciaparra’s two-run homer, a key victory en route to their NL West title.

The Dodgers appear to be en route to another one. With the win, they ran their record to 84-59 (54-17 since June 22) and reduced their magic number for winning the division to eight.

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