Another strong outing by Yoshinobu Yamamoto in Dodgers' victory

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 7, 2024: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (18) pitches against the Miami Marlins in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on May 7, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is starting to give the Dodgers that feeling.

The feeling that every time he takes the ball, the team will get a quality start. That whenever he ascends the mound, a string of zeros will follow. That, most importantly, on days he pitches, the Dodgers should be positioned to win.

“You start to have that feeling like, ‘It’s Yamamoto’s day,’” manager Dave Roberts explained with a smile before first pitch. “This is win day.”

Tuesday was indeed another of those days, with Yamamoto dazzling in an eight-inning, two-run start to guide the Dodgers past the Miami Marlins 8-2 at Dodger Stadium.

The game was Yamamoto’s third straight quality start, lowering his ERA to 2.79. It was his longest outing in the majors and made him only the second starter for the Dodgers (25-13) to pitch past the seventh inning.

And when asked for his thoughts on Yamamoto’s performance postgame, Roberts annunciated his one-word answer.

“Fan-tas-tic,” the manager said. “Really great job.”

Staked to a big early lead, Yamamoto went on the attack against the Marlins (10-28), throwing his first 19 pitches for strikes and 73 of 97 overall.

Though he gave up a first-pitch home run to Jazz Chisholm Jr., he was able to “stay calm … and execute my pitches” he said through his interpreter postgame, mixing in his splitter and trademark curveball to effectively limit Miami’s paperweight lineup — the Marlins ranked 20th in the majors in scoring entering the game — to as many hits as strikeouts (five each).

Mookie Betts throws sunflower seeds at Max Muncy after Muncy hit a grand slam in the first inning.Mookie Betts throws sunflower seeds at Max Muncy after Muncy hit a grand slam in the first inning.

“He is starting to become that guy,” Roberts said before the game, reiterating Yamamoto’s ever-growing status as a star pitcher and, along with Tyler Glasnow, co-ace of the rotation. “But again, [we want him to] just go out there and keep doing what he’s been doing. Because it’s been really good.”

The start of Yamamoto’s rookie season was decidedly not good, particularly not after the Dodgers signed him to a record-breaking $325-million contract in the offseason.

In his MLB debut in South Korea in late March, he gave up five runs in one inning. While he got better once the team returned state-side, he still had a 4.50 ERA through his first five outings.

In his last three, however, Yamamoto has flashed a tantalizing level of dominance, with back-to-back outings of six scoreless innings preceding Tuesday’s gem.

More consistent fastball command has been key.

“Man, I feel like Will [Smith] just sets up behind the plate, and wherever he sets up, Yama throws it right there,” infielder Gavin Lux said. “He’s been really impressive so far.”

Yamamoto’s increasing comfort level with the major leagues, and his new Dodgers teammates in particular, has been equally important.

“It’s hard to succeed when you feel like, you have to prove yourself to people that don’t believe in you or don’t care about you,” Roberts said. “But when they do, you just feel like you have more latitude, more margin. I think right now, Yoshinobu is in a really comfortable spot, as he has said. And his pitching is mirroring that.”

It helped that again Tuesday, Yamamoto was pitching with a big lead.

After giving up the early home run, Yamamoto was handed a 4-1 lead on Max Muncy’s grand slam in the bottom of the first. The game was all but over by the third, when Lux’s first home run of the season punctuated another four-run rally.

“It felt good,” said Lux, whose last MLB home run came in August 2022, before he sat out last season because of a knee injury. “It was a long recovery road the last year and then you get off to a slow start. Nobody wants to do that. So it felt really good.”

The score was so out of hand against a last-place Marlins team that has already started selling key pieces — they traded last season’s National League batting champion, Luis Arráez, to San Diego last week — that Roberts pulled some key players out of the game early.

Teoscar Hernández, who has yet to have a day off, left the game after four innings. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, who also started all 38 games so far, were out by the seventh and eighth, respectively.

Read more: Plaschke: Shohei Ohtani has sweeping Dodgers dreaming of a different October

All that, however, was made possible by Yamamoto’s performance on the mound — even if the pitcher himself shot down the notion that completing eight innings was any sort of “achievement.”

“The most important thing is to lead the team to the win, the victory,” Yamamoto said. “Today, I kept my rhythm and then also good tempo overall. If I could do this every game, I would like to.”

So, too, would the Dodgers.

Before the game, Roberts acknowledged he was initially “hesitant” to put too much pressure on the 25-year-old Japanese star. He didn’t want to treat Yamamoto’s start days any differently as he was getting “his feet wet” in the big leagues.

But now, Roberts said, “he’s earning that right for us to look at him as such.”

To be looked upon as the ace the Dodgers, when accounting for Yamamoto’s posting fee, spent more than $375 million to sign this winter.

To give his new team that feeling, that they can win every time he takes the mound.

Clayton Kershaw threw his second bullpen session in his return from shoulder surgery, impressing Dodgers personnel — many of whom had gathered to watch him throw — with a 20-pitch effort of mostly fastballs.

“Ticked up with the velocity. Felt good. Free and easy,” Roberts said. “So really encouraging. He’s in a good mood. Had a lot of eyeballs on him. Really good day for us.”

Kershaw, who continues to target a return during the second half of the year, will continue to ramp up his bullpen sessions in the near term, Roberts said, including both an increased pitch count and greater mix of breaking pitches. From there, the team will decide when he can start a rehabilitation assignment.

“Right now, we’re not going on results, we’re going on how he feels and [that] getting better,” Roberts said. “When you feel good, your body feels good, then it puts you in a much better mood. So he’s in a good spot. Just the feeling of being free and easy and letting him throw the ball as hard as he can without having pain.”

Short hops

Jason Heyward (back) continued to increase his baseball activities, taking batting practice and running the bases. Heyward will take live at-bats during the team’s series in San Diego this weekend, then could go on a rehab assignment of anywhere from two to five games, Roberts said. … Bobby Miller (shoulder) is also nearing a rehab assignment but will still need to throw at least one more bullpen before then, Roberts said. … Emmet Sheehan (forearm) has yet to throw off a mound but is ramping up his long toss work.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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