Petco Park – San Diego, California
Under most circumstances, a single MLB game on a Friday night in April would not be considered important in the grand scheme of the 162-game season.
This particular Friday night, however, is not your typical April game. Not only is this the first meeting of two NL powerhouses, the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but a game that could easily set the tone for the future of the division.
The Dodgers have been very outspoken about there not being a rivalry with the Padres. Still, it was the Dodgers that manipulated their starting rotation schedule to ensure their top three pitchers were available for this series. Even though they won’t admit it, the Dodgers know this series, and the season series as a whole will be crucial to winning the division. Dropping 13 or 14 games to the closest competition would be a disaster for either team.
The Padres elected to keep their rotation schedule the same and give the start to none other than rookie Ryan Weathers. The left-hander made his MLB debut against the Dodgers last season in the playoffs, striking out Cody Bellinger in the process.
Weathers did not disappoint on Friday night, throwing 3.2 scoreless innings. Hitting as high as 97 mph on the radar gun, Weathers only gave up one hit and two walks while striking out three. Dodgers hitters were extremely patient running up the pitch count as they always seem to do. Weathers was pulled after 79 pitches but lowered his season era to 0.93 in the process. He mostly relied on his fastball and slider combination.
Weathers was helped tremendously by his defense, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.turned a big double play in the first inning. Jake Cronenworth ran a long way into right field to track down a ball. Jurickson Profar robbed Kyle Seager of a base hit with a huge diving catch to end the top of the third inning, and Manny Machado went to a backhand to get Justin Turner.
Unfortunately for the Padres, the defense came unraveled in the sixth inning. Keone Kela was squeezed on a couple of close pitches resulting in two runners on with two outs. Tatis made a highlight-reel diving stop in the hole, but Jake Cronenworth was late to the bag at second and couldn’t handle the throw. Both runners scored, and then a passed ball by Campusano gave the Dodgers three runs in the inning and the 4-2 lead. Although it was technically ruled a wild pitch for being in the dirt, it was a ball Campusano is expected to block. Those were the 15th and 16th errors of the season, leading the major leagues. Eric Hosmer also booted a ground ball in the fourth inning, giving San Diego 17 now for the year.
Walker Buehler started for the Dodgers, and the Padres got to him early. In the second inning, Manny Machado reached base with a single and then promptly stole second base. Wil Myers moved him over to third, and Luis Campusano drove him in with his first RBI this season. Fernando Tatis Jr.announced his return from IL with a huge home run to centerfield in the bottom of the fifth. It was a towering shot that left the bat at 106 mph and went 410 feet, according to Stat Cast. That was all the Padres were able to get off of Buehler. He went six innings, giving up seven hits, the two earned runs, and four strikeouts.
After falling behind in the game, the Padres offense was able to claw their way back into it. Capitalizing on a seventh-inning Dodger error and then a two-run double by Profar tied the game in the ninth.
The normally strong Padre bullpen was off the mark tonight. Although no single pitcher gave up more than one earned run, the bullpen gave up four earned and six total runs over 5.1 innings, including the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth off Melancon.
This set the table for the Padres. Machado worked a walk, stole second and third base, notably wincing in pain the entire way. Eric Hosmer punched a ground ball through with two strikes to tie it up and send it to extra innings. A truly gritty performance from the third baseman.
After all the errors and mistakes during the game, the Padres had the best chances to win the game in extra innings but did not capitalize on them. Melancon and Tim Hill were huge in the 10th and 11th innings, ensuring the Padres offense had two chances to win the game. Tatis and Myers, two of the best hitters on the team, both struck out looking to end those innings. These mistakes cost the Padres a very winnable game.
The Dodgers got to Hill in the 12th as the Padres bench and bullpen were empty. The Padres lost this game simply because they could not execute when it counted most.
The two teams will battle in Game 2 on Saturday night as Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish take the mound.
More news and notes
Jake Cronenworth recorded his first major league strikeout of Mookie Betts In the 11th as he came on to record the final outs of the game.
Joe Musgrove recorded his first defensive out in left field in the 11th inning.
The benches cleared in the tenth after Santana hit pinch hitter Jorge Mateo. Nothing came of the incident, and no ejections were made – as if this game needed any additional drama.