The San Diego Padres came close but failed to pull out the victory in a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Game 3 of the 2020 NLDS delivered exactly what you would hope and want for in a playoff matchup between division rivals.
Big-time hits and big-time emotions were present.
Padres starter Zach Davies finally gave the team a somewhat lengthy outing from the rotation, managing to last nearly half the game. While he was able to pitch five innings, the Dodgers were able to make quite a bit of noise in those frames. Batters managed to record 10 hard-hit balls off Davies. Of the 19 balls in play against Davies, only three had an expected batting average below .350. He continued to lean heavily on his command and pitch to contact, as he surrendered zero walks but notched only three strikeouts.
The damage started in the third inning when Davies gave up two singles to lead off the frame. Corey Seager then got his first double off Davies to score both runners. Max Muncy followed that up with an RBI single to make it five hits in the inning. In the fourth, Cody Bellinger added on by hitting a solo home run to center field. That would be the last run the Dodgers got off Davies.
The legendary Clayton Kershaw took the bump for the Dodgers. While Kershaw has typically struggled in the postseason, he was fresh off what is perhaps his best postseason start. Against the Brewers, in the Wild Card Series, he pitched eight innings, struck out 13, and allowed no runs.
This outing was a bit of regression toward the mean for Kershaw, and the Padres were clear in their approach against him: swing early in the count. The first time through the order, only two San Diego batters didn’t swing at the first pitch. For the most part, Kershaw overcame that strategy by inducing a lot of weak contact when the Padres were aggressive.
A bright spot in the early aggression came in the second inning. Tommy Pham singled to right field on the first pitch he saw. Then Wil Myers, one of two Padres who didn’t swing on the first pitch, doubled to left-center to give San Diego an early 1-0 lead.
Fast forward to the sixth inning. Kershaw has a 4-1 lead and has struck out six batters already. Manny Machado is at the plate and ready to get the offense going again. He ropes a ball right over the left-field wall, but perhaps it’s what came after the swing that is the bigger story. He threw his bat back towards the dugout and yelled some PG-13 words of encouragement to his teammates.
That was enough the get the Padres fired up. Eric Hosmer followed up Machado’s home run with one of his own, a towering drive that carried just far enough over the right-center wall. Machado celebrated with even more choice words. This brought the Padres within one run, but that was all the damage they would do in the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Blake Treinen replaced Kershaw on the mound and had the seventh, eighth, and ninth Padres batters due up. After a groundout by Jurickson Profar and lineout by Austin Nola, Trent Grisham took an inside pitch off his elbow guard to get him on base. Dave Roberts then called Brusdar Graterol to face Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis then launched a 99-mph sinker toward center field. The ball cleared the top of the fence by about a foot, but in what might be the biggest play of the whole series, Cody Bellinger reached up and made a spectacular catch, bringing the ball back into the yard.
In the heat of the moment, Graterol threw his glove and hat in celebration. Machado didn’t take kindly to the way the pitcher celebrated after nearly giving up the lead. Graterol then escalated the situation by blowing a kiss toward Machado as he walked off the field. The umpires appeared to issue warnings to both managers before the top of the eighth inning as a matchup between Machado and Graterol loomed. The two did indeed face each other in the following frame, and the at-bat resulted in a 103-mph line drive back up the middle by Machado that whizzed past Graterol’s feet to Enrique Hernandez for a groundout.
Going into the ninth inning, things looked bleak for the Padres. The Dodgers managed to score two more runs in the bottom of the seventh, which gave them a huge momentum swing and a 6-3 lead. Wil Myers started the inning against Kenley Jansen with a three-pitch strikeout. Jake Cronenworth then singled after an 11-pitch at-bat to get a runner on for the pinch hitter, Mitch Moreland. Moreland showed people why his nickname is Mitchy-Two-Bags by lining a double to right-center. That brought it down to a two-run game, moving the score to 6-4 in favor of Los Angeles.
Grisham then singled to bring the game within one run. Once again, Dave Roberts decided to bring in a fresh pitcher to face Tatis, so Joe Kelly was summoned from the bullpen. Both Tatis and Machado worked full-count walks to load the bases for Eric Hosmer.
Arlington is the birthplace of Slam Diego. Tatis famously hit a 3-0 grand slam to start the streak of four straight games with grand slams. Unfortunately for Padres fans, however, Hosmer grounded out to second base to end the game.
The final score: Dodgers 6, Padres 5.
In his postgame press conference, Hosmer talked about his desire to be in situations like that, but just not coming through.