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Yasmani Grandal is just latest to light Dodgers' power fuse

LOS ANGELES -- It hasn't been like flipping a switch, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have found a way to put some power back into their game.

A team that slugged its way to a solid start in 2015 was far from a long-distance group to start 2016, although as the weather heats up, so too has the big lumber.

Yasmani Grandal's three-run homer on Thursday came in the nick of time and gave the Dodgers a second consecutive victory over the Washington Nationals, this one by a 3-2 count. It is the Dodgers' fifth consecutive victory overall and seventh in their past eight games.

It means the Dodgers now have at least one home run in 12 consecutive games, a season high -- and it's their lengthiest run of long balls since 2002.

Manager Dave Roberts is convinced that the Dodgers can make the power game a significant, steady aspect to the team's success heading toward the final three months of the season.

"It's just timely hitting, and [Grandal's home run] was a timely hit," Roberts said. "Last year the air was lighter, it was warmer early and I really remember it. This year, the air is starting to get light and the ball is starting to fly a little bit more. I expect us to hit the ball into the seats."

Roberts' statement is not so much a knock on the Dodgers needing help to hit more home runs as it is a commentary on the cool air and damp nights Dodger Stadium is known for in April and May.

In April, the Dodgers were 14th in the 15-team National League with 17 home runs. In May, they boosted that total to 34 home runs, sixth best in the NL. Now in June, the Dodgers have already hit 31 home runs in 20 games, the most in the NL this month at the start of play Tuesday.

The upward trend has come even with Adrian Gonzalez still searching for his power stroke, Yasiel Puig on the disabled list until Tuesday and Grandal not hitting for consistent power. That could change.

Grandal's line-drive home run over the center-field wall could be the start of a power run. The switch-hitter has felt better physically in the season's third month. He not only had shoulder surgery in the offseason, but had a forearm injury that derailed his spring training.

"After that series in San Francisco [June 10-12], I felt like my forearm is good, my legs are good, I had that foul ball off the ankle that had been bothering me for a while," Grandal said. "So yeah, as to that, it's been pretty good."

As for matching power numbers with the league's best for the entire season, the Dodgers still have work to do. They started play Tuesday with 81 home runs this year, eighth in the NL. They were tied with the Reds, but Cincinnati held the seventh spot based on the fact they had played two fewer games.

For Grandal, he hit just his sixth home run and first since June 5. He hit 16 home runs last year, with 14 of those coming by July 7, before his shoulder issues emerged during a series against Philadelphia.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty hard the past couple of weeks," Grandal said. "I feel like this whole month I have been hitting the ball well, I just haven't been getting it in the air. This game is about inches or angles.

"When I look up and I hit a ball hard over 100 mph, for me that's what I'm trying to do. So far, I feel like I have been doing a pretty job of that and I look forward to keep doing that. Obviously, hits will start to fall at some point. I was just happy to get the ball in the air and put us ahead."

Making all the home runs a part of a consistent offensive flow is still a work in progress. Despite all the recent home runs, the Dodgers were just eighth in the NL in runs scored this month at the start of play Tuesday with 73. The leaders were the Nationals, who had 100 runs, but they've been held to just three in two games of this series so far.

Clayton Kershaw's dominance was expected Monday, while Scott Kazmir stepped up Tuesday to keep damage at a minimum. Despite his first six hits all going for extra bases, Kazmir kept his team in the game. The bullpen took over with three scoreless innings.

It helped to set up the heroics for Grandal, who let out a burst of emotion as he rounded the bases. It has been an interesting week for Grandal, who was called out by teammate Justin Turner for a baserunning gaffe earlier in the homestand, then had a game-ending walk with the bases loaded Sunday before his go-ahead homer Tuesday.

"I feel like my confidence has been the same. I feel fine at the plate," Grandal said. "In the [last] series against Milwaukee, I kept hitting balls hard. I felt like within the first three games, I must have had maybe six or seven balls that were hit at people 100 mph. It's just funny the way the game works."