LOS ANGELES -- When you have four roommates, all under the age of 27, coming to the plate in the ninth inning with the game on the line, it's really not that stressful at all.
Trayce Thompson had “ice water in his veins,” as Corey Seager put it, when he crushed a 2-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth into the left-field seats for a game-ending homer in a 3-2 Los Angeles Dodgers victory on Tuesday over the New York Mets.
It was see fastball, hit fastball and get the party started as Thompson belted the first walk-off home run of his career and first game-ending pinch-hit homer for the Dodgers since Scott Van Slyke pulled off the trick in September 2013.
So how does Seager know Thompson’s temperament so well? They are just two of the residents at a local rental house that needs to be painted Dodger blue, if it isn’t already. Others who pay the collective rent are Alex Wood, Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling.
“It’s special,” Thompson said. “Just to get in there and to celebrate with your teammates, especially guys in here who are established veterans on this team; and they have all been open to me, especially me being new and me being one of the younger guys on the team. They have all been very open and it has been awesome. It’s definitely a crazy feeling. It happened so fast, but I’m just happy to help the team win.”
Wood, who started Tuesday’s game and ended up with a no-decision despite recording nine strikeouts, called the Thompson home run “roommate love.” Seager was amazed, especially since Thompson quickly fell behind 0-2 on two fastballs.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Seager said. “He took two heaters and still battled back and ended up swinging at the first thing that doesn’t bounce. That’s awesome. It’s an awesome moment.
“He’s calm as hell. It’s unbelievable. He didn’t even have any jitters after the game. It was like as if nothing happened right there. It was special. A lot of people, their motors are going fast. His just wasn’t. No heartbeat at all.”
For Thompson, the past two weeks have been a revelation. He struggled in spring training after being acquired in the offseason from the Chicago White Sox. He still made the roster, though, mostly because of Andre Ethier’s broken leg.
Three weeks into the season he looked like nothing more than a late-inning defensive replacement. And then, all of a sudden, something changed. The most obvious sign was Thompson’s newly shaved head. But a whole lot more was going on.
“Besides the bald head, I think he and the hitting coaches have really figured something out,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who has been one of Thompson’s biggest advocates since spring training. “Not that he was broke before, but his stroke has really been fine-tuned. They are doing some things mechanically that he feels comfortable with, that he can do consistently.”
Since April 25, Thompson has led the Dodgers in runs scored, home runs and RBIs. And those numbers have come without an everyday role in the lineup. He started at all three outfield spots on the recent road trip, and on Tuesday, he had to bide his time waiting from the bench for a spot to help.
By the fifth inning, he was shuffling around trying to stay busy, which has become his habit when he doesn’t start games. It’s a routine he has developed out of need, since he has always been an everyday player -- until he was called up to the White Sox late last season.
As a major leaguer, he has had to take his opportunities where he can get them.
“I went through it last year in Chicago, so I have a little bit of experience, but it’s been tough,” Thompson said. “This is the toughest thing I have had to do in my career, easily. Just try to stay focused and do what I can. That’s all I can do. Just try to help the team win in whatever way I can, whether I’m starting or coming in late in the game.
"I’m just happy to come through for the guys tonight, and hopefully we can keep rolling tomorrow.”
Thompson has a plan for how to keep the good luck going: That shaved head will stay smooth for the time being.
“It’s working; I will probably cut it again tomorrow,” said Thompson, who calls Van Slyke his barber. “I’m just trying to have fun and help in any way I can.”
Don’t ask Seager to join in the shaved-head club, though.
“I’m not going to do it, but that has been good luck,” Seager said. “I’m just going to stick to my own superstitions. I said no [in a] heartbeat. It has been impressive.”
Roberts sees more than just luck.
“Trayce is a worker,” Roberts said. “I can’t say enough about him. The game honors you. When you do things the right way, things like this happen. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”