How could the Dodgers-Padres improve on their 12-inning game on Friday? With another instant classic on Saturday
There was a benches-clearing brawl, a future Hall of Fame pitcher having the best at-bat of the night, and an elite pitching duel between two bonafide aces. Oh, and a miraculous catch millimeters off the grass to end the game.
Game Two of the series between the National League West rivals Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres on Saturday night had all the intensity and drama of October. The Dodgers won 2-0, but not before a spectacle that should make the next 17 games between these two clubs must-see viewing for baseball fans.
The two starting pitchers, Clayton Kershaw for the visiting Dodgers and Yu Darvish for the Padres, battled to see who would blink first. It turned out to be Darvish, and it was Kershaw who did the damage at the plate. After retiring the first 14 batters he faced, Darvish hit Zach McKinstry with a pitch to give the Dodgers their first baserunner of the game. A single by Luke Raley—the only hit Darvish would give up over seven innings—and a walk to Austin Barnes later, Kershaw came up with the bases loaded and two out.
Kershaw, a career .161 hitter who hadn’t driven in a run with the bases loaded since 2017, fouled off consecutive two-strike pitches. Darvish came back at him with a 3-2 cutter that just missed the outside corner, allowing McKinstry to walk home with the game’s opening run.
Kershaw made sure it was all the Dodgers would need. He gave up only two hits over six shutout innings, striking out eight while lowering his ERA on the season to 2.19. In the fourth inning, he appeared to get Jurickson Profar swinging for the third out. Profar protested that Barnes had made contact with his bat, and after a review, the umpires awarded him first base. Kershaw, already back in the Dodgers dugout, complained that Profar had intentionally hit the glove. Terse words between the two were exchanged and, for the second straight night, the benches cleared.
The only result, though, was that Kershaw needed to throw five more pitches to get out of the inning. He and Darvish combined for only the 12th game in MLB history where both starting pitchers went at least six innings, giving no more than two hits while each striking out at least eight batters. The Dodgers last had a game like this on July 5, 1994; the Padres never have.
Mookie Betts sends Dodgers home happy
The score remained 1-0 heading to the top of the ninth when Justin Turner hit a 395-foot fly into the left-field seats to put the Dodgers up by two. With closer Kenley Jansen having thrown 26 pitches in Friday’s 12-inning marathon, the Dodgers instead turned to Victor Gonzalez in the bottom half of the inning after Blake Treinen gave up a one-out infield single to Wil Myers.
The first batter Gonzalez faced was Profar, who tied the game on Friday with a two-run double in the eighth. He walked him on five pitches. A groundball by Jake Cronenworth moved Profar to second and Myers to third, bringing up Tommy Pham with the tying run in scoring position.
After all that had already transpired in this game, the biggest play of the night was still to come. On a 0-1 pitch, Pham hit a 99-mph liner to the gap in right-center field. Mookie Betts, shading Pham in that direction, ran to his left and made a desperate dive. With his eyes tracking the ball and his glove just above the outfield grass, Betts caught it off the heel. The ball had a 10 percent catch probability when it left Pham’s bat; when Betts came up with it, the Dodgers walked away the winners.
The Dodgers have won eight consecutive games. They improved their record on the season to 13-2, tying the franchise record for the best start through 15 games. The last time they won 13 of their first 15 games, it was 1955, they were in Brooklyn, and the “Bums” made sure the fans would no longer have to wait until next year.
These two teams have played each other just twice so far this season but have already turned in two instant classics. The closing game of the series on Sunday has the chance to be just as memorable, as Blake Snell, who tormented the Dodgers in the World Series last October, takes the mound for the Padres to face reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.
After that, they’ll play each other 16 more times this season. And judging by the start of this rivalry, each one of them will be hard to miss.