Dodgers can't overpower Padres in 3-2 loss

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Jorge Castillo
·5 min read
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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22, 2021: Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy (13) stands at home plate after striking out with runners on base against the San Diego Padres in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy stands at home plate after striking out with runners on base against the San Diego Padres in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on Thursday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The latest installment in the rivalry between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres, an intense feud that has routinely provided captivating thrills over the last week, came down to a roller-coaster eighth inning in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

It began with the Padres mustering a run against reliever Blake Treinen on a double play to break a tie in the top of the inning.

Justin Turner then led off the bottom half for the Dodgers with a single off right-hander Nabil Crismatt. Will Smith followed with a flyball that landed down the left-field line, just beyond a diving Jurickson Profar’s reach. The ball was initially called foul, but the Dodgers challenged the play.

The video showed the ball bouncing off the chalk, leaving a brown spot behind, and into the seats. Smith was given a ground-rule double. The crowd roared as Turner and Smith jogged to their stations with no outs. It was the break the struggling Dodgers offense needed.

The Padres replaced Crismatt with left-hander Tim Hill to face the left-handed-hitting Max Muncy. He got Muncy to hit a groundball to second baseman Jake Cronenworth, who was drawn in, and Turner didn’t try scoring.

AJ Pollock then worked a 2-0 count before he was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the double play. The strategy worked by a few inches.

Sheldon Neuse followed by smashing a 105-mph groundball to Cronenworth, who sprawled to somehow stop the ball on one hop. He recovered to underhand it to second base. Fernando Tatis Jr. corralled it, just kept his foot on the bag and whipped the ball to first base, where Eric Hosmer stretched just far enough to snatch it before Neuse’s foot hit the base.

Dodger Stadium went from rocking to silence. The Dodgers (14-5) went from threatening for a big inning to nothing. They then went down in order in the ninth inning as the Padres (11-10) took the opener of the four-game series between the clubs to end a three-game losing streak.

San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. gets a hand slap from teammate Wil Myers.
San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) gets a hand slap from teammate Wil Myers (5) after scoring on an RBI single by third baseman Manny Machado in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on Thursday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“They had to make a great play, a big double, to hold us off,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We had a chance to win tonight and just got beat.”

Strip away all the layers, all the hype and animosity and star power, and Thursday’s game was a meeting between two sputtering offenses.

The Dodgers had scored four runs over their last 24 innings and tallied eight runs on 13 hits over their last four games. The Padres netted three runs in three losses to the Milwaukee Brewers over the previous three days. They matched that total Thursday while the Dodgers have generated just 10 runs over their last five games without Cody Bellinger (fibula) and Gavin Lux (wrist).

“We have a lot of good offensive players who have track records to back it up, but again, I think we’ll be fine,” Roberts said. “There’s always parts of a season where there’s a lull offensively, that happens. Those pitchers are pretty good too, but yeah, I’m OK with our offense.”

The anticipation for the marquee matchup, the fourth of 19 meetings this season, was palpable as the 15,167 people in attendance took their seats just four days after the teams delivered a wild three-game show two hours south last weekend.

Fans booed Tatis during pregame introductions and reached another decibel level when Manny Machado’s name was announced. Chants of “Manny sucks!” pelted Machado, a Dodger for three months in 2018, when he stepped into the batter’s box the first time.

The jeers didn’t relent for his second plate appearance in the fourth inning. Tatis was at second base after a leadoff single for the Padres’ first hit of the night off Walker Buehler after three perfect innings and stealing second base. Machado coolly cracked a single to left field to score Tatis for the game’s first run.

The Padres doubled the margin in the sixth when Trent Grisham turned on a 96-mph fastball high and tight and launched it 419 feet away deep into the right-field pavilion.

Grisham’s blast came on a similar pitch — a four-seam fastball up and in — Buehler used to strike him out in the first inning. The strikeout was one of eight Buehler finished off with his four-seam fastball, a pitch that showed marked improvement Thursday.

Buehler entered Thursday with 12 strikeouts in 18 innings over his first three starts. He had a season-high five strikeouts through five innings and finished with nine. Of his season-high 101 pitches, 50 were four-seam fastballs. The pitch, which reached 97 mph several times, generated 14 of his 15 swing-and-misses.

Buehler held the Padres to two runs on four hits across seven innings, but he nearly left with a deficit because the Dodgers couldn’t solve starter Ryan Weathers.

The left-hander, starting opposite Buehler for the second time in less than a week, held the Dodgers scoreless for 52/3 innings. He surrendered just one hit — a single by Buehler — and a walk.

The Dodgers didn’t put a runner on second base until Austin Adams replaced Weathers with the bases empty and two outs in the sixth inning. The erratic right-hander promptly walked Turner and hit Smith with a pitch. He escaped the jam by striking out Muncy.

Emilio Pagán couldn’t keep the Dodgers off the board in the seventh inning. Pollock and Neuse greeted him with back-to-back homers for the Dodgers’ first runs in 12 innings. The home run was the first of Neuse’s major-league career and his first hit as a Dodger.

He nearly had his second hit in his next at-bat. He couldn’t have squared the ball any better. But Cronenworth got a glove on it and the rest fell in place for San Diego.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.