Kiké Hernández flicked his wrist and saluted Sunday’s man of honor, shouting out “Kobe!” while imitating an iconic three-point stroke as he crossed home plate.
On a day dedicated to Kobe Bryant, who was commemorated on what would have been his 42nd birthday, Hernández’s subtle nod following a three-run homer in the fourth inning made the celebration feel complete.
“It was a three-run homer,” Hernández said. “When you shoot a three-pointer, you go, ‘Kobe!’ “
Hernández’s blast was one of a season-high seven home runs for the Dodgers, who completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with Sunday’s 11-3 win and reached the halfway point of a pandemic-shortened season with the best record in the majors at 22-8. The Dodgers have won four straight games and 11 of their last 12.
“The offense was outstanding,” manager Dave Roberts said. “The ball was carrying today. We stayed in the zone really well. Had a great game plan. Elevated the baseball.”
But in the club’s first opportunity to honor the late Lakers legend, who died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26, memories of the Black Mamba overshadowed all else.
Bryant was ever-present from the start, his face flashed across the scoreboard during a ceremonial pregame video narrated by Vin Scully while his voice reverberated around the venue during the playing of clips between innings.
Every member of the Dodgers, as well as former Dodger and current Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp, donned one of Bryant’s gold Lakers jerseys during the pregame remembrance. The numbers 24 and 2 — the latter recognizing Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, one of the eight other people killed in the crash — also were sketched out across the back of the mound.
Asked before the game about Bryant’s legacy in Los Angeles, Roberts paused before answering.
“Tenacity. Consistency. Winning,” said the fifth-year manager, whose tenure as a Dodgers player overlapped with Bryant’s time as a Laker, from 2002 to 2004.
“Just the compete. Doing things the right way. Really looking out and being a servant to so many people in Los Angeles and Greater Los Angeles.”
Hernandez’s home run was one of 10 balls that left the park on a grueling, gusty summer day at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers starter Ross Stripling lasted just four innings, conceding solo shots to Trevor Story and Ryan McMahon in a two-run start.
“I thought it was a step forward from my last two outings,” said Stripling, whose 5.46 earned-run average remains the highest among Dodgers starters. “Still taking way too much damage on fastballs. Feel like I have no room for error on fastballs right now.”
His counterpart for Colorado (13-15) , Antonio Senzatela fared even worse, however, surrendering all six of his runs via the big fly. The Rockies have lost seven straight games and 12 of their last 14 after starting the season 11-3.
Corey Seager and Mookie Betts both homered to left field in the opening three innings, getting a boost from an outward breeze as the Dodgers recorded their 24th game with at least one home run and 17th with at least two.
Hernandez’s shot went the other way, clearing the wall in right-center field to break open a 2-2 tie.
In the sixth, Cody Bellinger added to the lead with his eighth home run of the year and sixth in his last 10 games. An inning after that, Will Smith marked his return from the injured list with a solo shot to center.
The Dodgers matched their season high for runs with two more long balls in the eighth from Max Muncy and Betts, who became the first Dodger ever to hit two home runs and steal two bases in the same game.
AJ Pollock’s seventh-inning sacrifice fly was the game’s only run not to score on a homer.
It all added to the Dodgers’ tribute of one of the city’s all-time sports heroes.
“We lost Kobe a little too soon,” Hernández said, adding: “For us to be part of something like that before the game is really meaningful. I’m glad that we … were able to win that game for him. It’s probably one of those that I’ll always remember.”