NEW YORK -- Dodgers starter Nate Eovaldi's struggles against left-handed hitters paved the way for Kirk Nieuwenhuis to make his first start since July 15 on Sunday.
In nine starts this season prior to Sunday, left-handed hitters boasted a .339 batting average against Eovaldi, who was 1-6 with a 4.33 ERA.
Nieuwenhuis was mired in a season-worst slump and had just two hits in 22 at-bats this month entering Sunday. But with the post All-Star break success of Andres Torres, manager Terry Collins has found it difficult to find places in the lineup for Nieuwenhuis. Sunday's pitching matchup provided an opportunity.
"I wanted to get him in the lineup," Collins said. "A lot of times when you write a lineup everybody thinks that you're benching somebody, and that's not the case."
Nieuwenhuis had a hot start to his rookie campaign, but his extended summer slump had his batting average at .259 entering Sunday. But Collins said that he has seen overall improvement in the past few weeks, even if the numbers don't indicate it.
"What he is learning is that there's got to be some adjustments that have got to be made, and he's worked very, very hard to make those adjustments," Collins said. "I thought his last couple games, even when he pinch-hit, his swings have been better, so I thought it'd be a good day to get him in there."