Padres drop first series with Dodgers behind Betts’ blast

The Los Angeles Dodgers (21-14) came from behind to win the first series of the season against the San Diego Padres (18-17).

SAN DIEGO — It took over 30 games into the season, but the first Dodgers-Padres clash of the year finally arrived to a rowdy Petco Park. Notably, the recent ribbing between the NL West foes has made for a fierce rivalry over the past three MLB campaigns–especially when you consider the proximity of the two fanbases (125 miles), and that both sides have been able to eliminate the other from the playoffs.

Among the most prevalent of storylines heading into this three-game set was the fact that Fernando Tatis Jr. would remerge in this Southern California rivalry for the first time since late 2021. Naturally, his presence in this early May series was felt early, often and in a major way.

In the series preview, we mentioned that Joe Musgrove (foot) was a late scratch for Game 1 against the Dodgers, having his start pushed back to Game 3 on Sunday–that meant Yu Darvish would take the ball on Friday (the only true night game in the series). A wise decision from skipper Bob Melvin and staff, Darvish pitched brilliantly, outdueling April 2023 NL Pitcher of the Month, Clayton Kershaw.

Like in Mexico City against the Giants, Darvish could not pitch the first frame without allowing a run (Max Muncy FC RBI after consecutive hits from Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman). However, the 2023 World Baseball Classic champion settled in masterfully, only allowing two more hits over 6.2 total innings pitched and two earned runs with six punchouts (issuing only one walk).

But as aforementioned, Friday night was “El Nino Show.” Tatis Jr. struckout on an inside slider in his first plate appearance, but his next two at-bats would send Petco Park into a frenzy. When Tatis came up in the third inning, Kershaw tried to blow a four-seam fastball by the Dominican star, but Tatis proceeded to smash it 405 feet over the center field wall–that tied things up at 1 run apiece.

Then after a leadoff walk to Trent Grisham in the fifth inning, Tatis Jr. was able to give the left field seats (at the base of Western Metal building) a souvenir of their own. With two strikes, Kershaw hung a slider that Tatis turned into an absolute missile. It was a line drive that left the ballpark in less than three seconds, sending Petco Park into a state of rapture: 3-1 Padres.

San Diego was able to continue the fifth inning rally for another run; After the rocket homer, Manny Machado and Juan Soto logged back-to-back base hits before Jake Cronenworth eventually drew a walk to load the bases. With two outs, Ha-seong Kim beat out a slow roller to shortstop that allowed Machado to score from third base–Make that 4-1 Padres. We would also close the book on Kershaw there at 4.2 innings pitched, four earned runs, seven strikeouts and five walks.

The Dodgers only threat on Friday night came in the seventh inning when (with one out) Will Smith and Jason Heyward both hit safely, the latter of which doubled-in the former. Still, Darvish buckled down to retire the next two hitters, striking out 2023 NL Rookie of the Year hopeful, James Outman.

In the eighth inning, the Padres added an insurance run via a bases-loaded fielder’s choice from Xander Bogaerts to his opposite number. When the Dodgers came up in the ninth, it was mostly smooth sailing from closer Josh Hader–He cleanly retired the middle of their lineup (Freeman, Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson), issuing just a walk to Smith. 5-2 Padres (F).

Game 1 line (Fri. May 5) – Padres 5 (eight hits, one error), Dodgers 2 (four hits, no errors). W: Yu Darvish (2-2). L: Clayton Kershaw (5-2). S: Josh Hader (11).

Fernando Tatis Jr. dominated Game 1, but Game 2’s programming switched over to “The Dustin May Show”–the big haired hurler shutdown San Diego for majority of the evening, going six shutout innings with six strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Padres, May’s outing would overshadow a fantastic day on the bump from Blake Snell (perhaps Snell’s best of the season, despite ultimately getting tagged with the loss). 

Snell cruised a full six innings as well, but the lefty ran into brief trouble in the fourth frame. After retiring the first two hitters atop L.A.’s lineup, he issued a walk (one of three on the day for Snell) to Will Smith before Chris Taylor crushed an upper-level home run to left field: 2-0 Dodgers.

As aforementioned, the Friars’ offense in Game 2 was mostly dormant–they had five hits through the game’s entirety, three of which were from Tatis Jr. El Nino did well to double in Brett Sullivan from second base, who hit a leadoff double himself in the eighth inning. With the score now 2-1 L.A. (and nobody out), San Diego had speed in scoring position. From there, the Padres collapsed: Three consecutive groundouts from Machado, Soto and Bogaerts ended up stranding Tatis at third base.

There would be no further threat by either side from there. In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers turned to Evan Phillips who proceeded to strike out Matt Carpenter before walking Jake Cronenworth. Unfortunately for San Diego, the walk would not matter, as Phillips continued the strike out the side, sending Kim and Grisham both down swinging: 2-1 Dodgers (F).

Game 2 line (Sat. May 6) – Dodgers 2 (three hits, no errors), Padres 1 (five hits, no errors). W: Dustin May (4-1). L: Blake Snell (1-5). S: Evan Phillips (4).

Joe Musgrove – a graduate of El Cajon’s Grossmont High School – took the mound with a commanding presence on Sunday. To commence the action, Musgrove struck out Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman consecutively (showing sharp snap on his breaking pitches all afternoon) before inducing Will Smith to a left field fly out. After a dominant top of the first, the Petco Park crowd was energized.

Suited in their desert camouflage alternates, the Padres came up to bat in the opening frame with intention. Naturally, leadoff man Fernando Tatis Jr. picked up right where he left off in Game 2, smashing a double to center field in his first at-bat. Next, Manny Machado dropped in a double of his own, bringing around the speedy Tatis for the first run of the ballgame: Two hitters in for San Diego and its 1-0 Padres. After Juan Soto next flew out, Xander Bogaerts slapped a fastball from Julio Urias into the right-center field gap, allowing Machado to score: 2-0 Padres. Unfortunately for the Friars, Urias would hold there, retiring the next two hitters to strand Bogaerts–that would close an active first frame.

For Musgrove, he actually went 4.2 innings before allowing a hit (despite issuing three walks), which was an opposite field cue shot single from Chris Taylor. Musgrove’s effort was also aided by a rangy sliding catch from Tatis Jr. in right field off the bat of Max Muncy–one that was unsuccessfully challenged by Los Angeles.

In the top of the fifth, Freeman led off by shooting a pitch down the right field line. Juan Soto glided over toward the chalk line and was there in-time to make the play, but saw the baseball drop off the heel of his glove for a two-base error. Smith then stepped in the box and slashed the second hit off Musgrove of the day, which was a clean double right back to Soto in left field: 2-1 with the Dodgers threatening, and nobody out. That was when San Diego manager Bob Melvin made a call to the bullpen

With Smith running on second base, reliever Tim Hill was called upon. Hill started shakily after hitting April’s NL Rookie of the Month, James Outman, to put two runners aboard. Still, Hill rallied on the hill and retired the next two hitters, including a huge strikeout of Muncy, who currently leads the Majors in home runs. With two outs, Melvin made another pitching change, going with Steven Wilson. 

For the sake of dramatics, Wilson walked the bases loaded before getting David Peralta to pop out in the middle of the field, ending the inning. Officially, that closed the book on Musgrove at five innings, five strikeouts and only two hits surrendered–by far his best outing of the year.

Los Angeles would not threaten again until their backs were against the wall. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Betts stepped in against closer Josh Hader – who is tied for MLB’s save lead with 11 – and hammered a 3-1 sinker over the left field wall. That knotted things up at two runs each, and earned Hader his first blown save of 2023. Hader then proceeded to retire Freeman to get San Diego back in the dugout. In the bottom of the ninth, Caleb Ferguson breezed through the Padre lineup for L.A., going 1-2-3; Just like that, this rubber match was headed to extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, Brent Honeywell was sent out to toe-the-rubber for San Diego. With the natural runner starting on second base (Freeman), Honeywell retired both Smith and Muncy to quickly make it two-down. Michael Busch then executed in a pinch hit role for the Dodgers, dropping a single just in front of Soto in left field, giving Los Angeles their first lead of the evening: 3-2. To make matters worse for the Friars, Outman came in and hooked a pitch from Honeywell just inside the right field foul pole for a two-run home run, making it 5-2 L.A.

The Padres had nothing going in the bottom of the 10th. For the second night in a row, Evan Phillips came in to slam the door on San Diego–this time going through Tatis Jr., Machado and Soto to do so. That 5-2 score would hold to go final, giving the Dodgers the first series over the Friars in 2023.

Game 3 line (Sun. May 7) – Dodgers 5 (six hits, no errors), Padres 2 (nine hits, one error). W: Caleb Ferguson (2-0). L: Brent Honeywell (2-1). S: Evan Phillips (5).

Despite losing the series in dramatic fashion, the Padres definitely have some things to feel great about. Scoring three runs over the last two games against the Dodgers doesn’t bode well, but the recent reinsertions of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Joe Musgrove has proven extremely productive–the former scored a run or knocked in a RBI in all three games against L.A.

Still in third place in the NL West, the Padres will have an off day on Monday before traveling for interleague play against the Minnesota Twins (19-16) at Target Field on Tuesday, May 9. The probable pitchers are Michael Wacha (2-1) and Louie Varland (0-0), who will be making only the eighth start of his MLB career.

Padres’ record against the Dodgers
2023: 1-2
2022 NLDS: 3-1
2022 (reg. season): 5-14
2021: 7-12
All-time: 416-511