We can say this with confidence: Dodgers-Padres did not disappoint.
It was the most anticipated matchup in baseball this season, and it has grown so much in the past six months that those games between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres may not live up to the hype.
And then the first matchup far exceeded expectations.
Friday night’s matchup, the first of 19 regular season games between two teams separated by 120 miles, felt like an April postseason game where every pitch matters and every move is scrutinized. The Padres got permission to send more fans to Petco Park to jump into this weekend series, and a crowd of 15,250 delivered a soundtrack of thunderbolts and “Beat LA!” Chants that created palpable intensity for the duration of a heated back-and-forth matchup that spilled into additional innings and lasted nearly five hours.
There were amazing home runs and head scratching mistakes. Surprising contributions and mystifying decisions. A fan runs onto the field, a brawl and 17 different pitchers. Above all, there were dramatic swings, especially in the eighth and ninth, where the Padres tied the game, the Dodgers took back the lead, and the Padres tied it again while falling out to the last out.
The Dodgers eventually retired with a fifth inning that gave them an 11-6 win and seven straight wins. Her first runs that half inning were performed by Corey Seager. Your last one? A fly ball from David Price, a reliever starter who was caught by Joe Musgrove – who threw a no-hitter seven days earlier – and hit against Jake Cronenworth, the second baseman to serve in the relief effort.
“It was like a playoff game,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “It was really.”
Corey Seager’s split home run in the 12th inning put the Dodgers in the lead. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, game 1 was exactly what we wanted.
We have also learned the following:
Not just any streak: Players hardly make too much of a regular season streak, no matter what opponent, because the season is too long to put too much into a game. It is not healthy. And so Seager’s answer when asked if he would like to face the Padres: “I think it’s just another division series. All division series are important.” – was predictable.
Then it was the fourth inning, and Padres manager Jayce Tingler told his No. 7 batsman to hit two runners and pinch in 9th place. Then it was the seventh inning, and both teams had teamed up for five mistakes. Then it was the eighth inning of a tie and Dodger’s manager Dave Roberts asked Jansen for four outs. Then it was the 10th and Dodgers reliever Dennis Santana went totally ballistic after getting out of a traffic jam.
Machado through clenched teeth: Manny Machado, whose signing two years ago ushered in a new era in San Diego, did everything for the Padres. He scored two singles, stole two bases, played a fabulous game on a tough grounder, and made it big in ninth. Machado took a six-pitch walk with two outs and no one against Dodger’s reliever Kenley Jansen, whose stuff looked electrifying again and who apparently had a backache as he jogged to first base. Then he stole second place, moved up to third in a wild field not too far away, and faced Eric Hosmer’s single.
Padre manager Jayce Tingler said Machado experienced lower back tightness during the bat, then some shoulder discomfort after his stolen base. But he was determined to play it through. “He didn’t want me to get him out,” said Tingler.
The Dodgers’ Absurd Depth: On a night when the Dodgers were without three normal players – including Cody Bellinger, who was diagnosed with a broken hairline in his left fibula – it was Luke Raley and Zach McKinstry who showed up. Raley smashed his first career home run in the fifth, a 434-foot shot that linked the game at 1. McKinstry, who started with an OPS of 0.974, drove in the eighth and twelfth runs.
The 2016 draft is proving to be epic for the Dodgers. Will Smith is already one of the game’s best catchers. Gavin Lux is an aspiring superstar. Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin were two of the best rookies in the game last season. McKinstry was a revelation. And Raley might be on the way.
Tatis’ Ups and Downs Return: Many questions concerned the health of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s left shoulder on this series. He had subluxated just 10 days earlier, his third problem with this shoulder in 23 days. And there were concerns about whether he could make it for an entire season and whether that could affect him as a player, especially with his mechanics on the plate.
Fernando Tatis Jr. hits a solo home run at the end of the fifth to put San Diego in the lead.
His return caused both concern and optimism. The optimism came to Walker Buehler’s direct midfield on a 410-foot home run with Tatis keeping both hands on the racket, an adjustment the Padres would love to see to preserve his shoulder. The concern came defensive, with two mistakes – a bad throw on the second in the sixth and a botched double-cue ball in the twelfth – to give him seven in six games.
Unbeatable: Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel and Padres pitcher Mark Melancon combined for a hit, walk, 12 strikeouts and zero runs in 11 1/3 innings of that series, then both were hit in the late innings.
When Padres right field player Wil Myers came to strike at the end of eighth place, with an on and an off and the Padres two runs behind, the opponents were 0: 12 with six strokes in bats that ended with Knebel’s curveball. But Myers got one over the plate and dropped one in the center right, then Jurickson Profar got one in the outer half and put a brace in the left field line.
Jurickson Profar’s brace on the left field line could only hold off a Dodgers win for so long. Matt Thomas / San Diego Padres / Getty Images
When Dodger’s third baseman Justin Turner came in ninth, the opposition was 1-13 on two hits against Melancon. But Turner, who explained during spring training that Dodgers-Padres games would feel like “19 World Series games” , brought a 2-2 cutter over the plate and set it in midfield, giving the Dodgers the second lead of the night.
“That was a very good game,” said Price, who pitched the last two innings and worked out of a tough jam in the 11th. “Neither team wanted to lose this game.”