Chavez Ravine- Los Angeles, California
In the pre-season, the Dodger’s Justin Turner described the future matchups against the Padres as 19 World Series games. It’s easy to see why he would say that. Coming into the season, many analysts ranked these two teams as the top two in all the MLB. The Dodgers have been the team to beat, while the Padres made big acquisitions to try and dethrone them.
Game seven of the World Series, a late April division series, was a great one. It felt like the conclusion to a seven-game playoff series. Last week, the two teams played three games in which the Los Angeles Dodgers took two of three. Then in this four-game series, the San Diego Padres took two of the first three games. Thus, game seven of the series came on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
“This was a great series, great battles; all seven matchups lived up to the expectations. We said heading in before these series that it was going to be a great test for our team. See what we are made of, see how we are playing. I think this series said a lot about our team. Especially tonight’s game, coming from behind, continuing to believe in each other. It was a fun series for only being April, but we know it’s going to be like that against these guys all year”, Eric Hosmer said after the game.
These seven games had it all. Amazing defensive plays, clutch hitting, and fantastic pitching. All the questions about whether or not this was a rivalry have been answered. Yes, yes, this is a rivalry, and fans should tune in. In the first series, Jurickson Profar and Clayton Kershaw were jawing at each other. Later, Jorge Mateo and Dennis Santana got into an argument that cleared the benches.
Yesterday Fernando Tatis Jr.started launching home runs and mocked Trevor Bauer as he rounded the bases. On his first home run, he covered his eye, a reference to Bauer pitching with one eye closed in Spring Training. On the second one, Tatis did the Conner McGregor strut. A celebration Bauer is known to do after touching home plate.
No surprise that this game was just as dramatic as the rest. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Dodgers had a 99%-win probability. Then in the ninth inning, the Padres battled their way to a tie. It could almost be considered a bad job that the Padres did not take the lead. They had bases loaded with one out and failed to get in a run.
Once again, this game featured a pair of great starting pitchers. Joe Musgrove came into the matchup with a 1.04 era and 12.81 K/9. Dustin May features one of the nastiest two-seam fastballs that has both velocity and movement. One dominated while the other struggled.
Musgrove only lasted three innings. His command was off, and his two walks and hit batters highlighted that. Those free passes quickly added up. In just those three innings, he faced six batters with the bases loaded. To his credit, he didn’t let that scare him. Only two runs crossed from those six massive opportunities.
His opponent on the mound, Dustin May, had a great outing. In five innings, he punched out 10 Padres, six of which watched strike three go by. He only allowed two hits all game. One was a solo shot by Tatis Jr, which was also the only run he gave up.
The Padres were heavily dependent on Tatis. He is on a streak as hot as they come. In this series, he had eight hits, six RBIs, and five home runs. Yes, five home runs, two off Kershaw, two off Bauer, and one-off of May. In this game, he was 2-for-4 with one home run, two walks, two stolen bases, and four runs. All the concerns about his shoulder and new playstyle have vanished. He showed he can hit while keeping two hands on the bat. When he steals, he goes feet first now and is still one of the most electric baserunners.
After that Tatis home run, the Dodgers had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 6th inning. Nick Ramirez took over the pitching duties from Craig Stammen. Sheldon Neuse wasted no time attacking Ramirez. He took a first-pitch changeup to center field for a quick home run. Two singles and a sac fly later, the Dodgers got one more. Chris Taylor then tried to put the game out of reach with a three-run home run. This gave the Dodgers a 7-1 lead and a 99% win probability.
From there, the Padres would have an uphill battle to fight. They managed to score two runs in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. In those three innings, they hit eight singles and walked four times. No extra-base hits, no errors, just wearing down the batter. In the 9th, they did have the bases loaded with one out. As previously mentioned, they failed to bring across the winning run, so it was off to extra innings.
The runner-on-second rule creates so much intensity. While some baseball purists may not like it, they will agree that it drastically raises the stakes. After using his entire bench already, Jayce Tingler opted to have Ryan Weathers pinch hit for Emilio Pagan. With Tatis up next, Weathers’ only job was to not ground into a double play. Despite the bold move, neither Weathers or Tatis would bring across a run.
Crazy moves continued in the bottom of the 10th. With Tim Hill pitching, Justin Turner grounded out to advance Corey Seager, the runner that started on second to third. Tingler went to the mound to discuss their plan of attack.
They chose to intentionally walk both Max Muncy and Chris Taylor to load the bases. Clayton Kershaw was then selected to pinch hit for Jimmy Nelson. This season Kershaw already has three hits and was their best remaining option. After taking care of him, Hill had a full count to rookie DJ Peters.
Take a second to imagine the stakes for Peters. This is his fifth career at-bat. Its bases-loaded, full count, two outs, winning run on third. This is as big of a game that you can play in the regular season.
Hill got him to chase a fastball above the zone to end the threat. In the 11th inning, Trent Grisham walked, then both he and Tatis executed a double steal. Eric Hosmer took advantage of the situation and launched a sacrifice fly to center field.
In the back half of the inning, Mark Melancon came in to take care of business. Austin Barnes battled a nine-pitch walk. Then Melancon shut down the strong 9-1-2 batters in the Dodgers lineup. Padres win this game, this series, and the larger seven-game series.
This whole series has been a battle that involved every single player. In total, the two teams used 43 of the 52 players on their roster in this final game. That includes two players from each team’s starting rotation.
Tingler may have said it best after the game. “What meant the most was watching a group of men, not give in, not give up, keep going, work together, chip away. It felt like we had to throw a lot of body blows. And both teams going back and forth.”
While the Padres won the series itself, baseball as a whole won, each one of these seven games forced the teams to be nothing less than their best. They were close games with a lot of drama that kept viewers glued to their screen. New fans to the sport got to witness division rivals giving it their all in an April series. If you haven’t already, circle June 21st because that is when these two teams next face each other.