MLB bracket: Dodgers to face upstart Padres in the NL Division Series

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Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres celebrates after beating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 to win the Wild Card Series at Petco Park on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)
The Padres' Manny Machado, middle, celebrates with teammates after San Diego beat St. Louis 4-0 on Friday to win the wild-card series in three games. (K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Dodgers and San Diego Padres played each other 10 times at their respective home ballparks 125 miles apart in Southern California during the 60-game regular season. The meetings set the bar for emotion and excitement for games without fans in the stands.

The Padres were the little brothers trying to finally win that game in the driveway. They wanted to show they were done promising a bright future and could compete with the National League West’s bullies. The Dodgers eventually shooed them away, taking the season series 6-4 and claiming their eighth straight NL West title.

Now comes another chance to topple the mighty Dodgers with higher stakes 1,400 miles away. The clubs, the two best in the National League during the regular season, will meet in the NL Division Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday.

The teams will enter a bubble in Arlington, where their five-game series, the National League Championship Series, and the World Series are slated to be held.

The Dodgers, the National League No. 1 seed, traveled there Friday after sweeping the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Brewers in the best-of-three wild card round. The fourth-seeded Padres will arrive Saturday after beating the St. Louis Cardinals, the No. 5 seed, in Game 3 of their wild-card series at Petco Park.

The Padres are in the NLDS for the first time since they last reached the postseason in 2006. They haven’t played in the NLCS since advancing to the World Series in 1998. They’re one of six major league franchises yet to win a World Series.

MLB bracket.
(Major League Baseball)

The 2020 Padres are bursting with talent and swagger. They’re anchored by 21-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., perhaps the sport’s brightest young star, and third baseman Manny Machado, a former Dodger. Both players are expected to finish in the top five for NL MVP.

But the club was 12-12 on Aug. 17 before winning 10 of their next 13 games to solidify themselves as a contender at the Aug. 31 trade deadline. Sensing a chance to win a championship, general manager A.J. Preller made five trades in a three-day span.

The final transaction was the biggest: acquiring ace Mike Clevinger from the Cleveland Indians to top an already formidable rotation that includes Zach Davies, Chris Paddack, and Dinelson Lamet, a breakout Cy Young award candidate. But Clevinger (elbow) and Lamet (biceps) weren’t on the wild card round roster. On Friday, Padres manager Jayce Tingler described getting the right-handers back for the NLDS as a “possibility.”

The Padres dropped the first game to the Cardinals before winning on consecutive days. Paddack and Davies started the first two games. The third game was a bullpen effort; Tingler deployed nine pitchers in the 4-0 win.

Closer Trevor Rosenthal, acquired from the Kansas City Royals at the trade deadline after All-Star Kirby Yates was lost for the season, pitched the ninth inning for the win. It was the most pitchers ever used — playoffs and regular season — in a nine-inning shutout.

The Dodgers are a different beast. They were the first team in history to lead the majors in home runs and ERA since 1944. They scored the most runs and gave up the second-fewest. They were the best team in the majors. The Padres know firsthand. They’ve wanted this chance and now they have it.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.