Dodgers-Padres: Takeaways from San Diego’s Game 2 win in the NLDS

The San Diego Padres defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 in Game 2 of the NLDS on Wednesday. The Padres’ victory means they tied the best-of-five series 1-1, so it’s tantamount to a three-game series where the Padres now have a home game. This was the start to ending the most entertaining game of the 2022 postseason yet and one of the most entertaining baseball games to watch. There was action after drama and more action.

Let’s dive in. This won’t be complete because there was just too much fun stuff.

Bombs away early

The fun started almost immediately.

Manny Machado shot first from Clayton Kershaw to give the Padres a quick lead.

Freddie Freeman targeted the bottom half to tie things. Max Muncy hit a homer on the second homer to give the Dodgers a lead. After the Padres scored twice in the top of the third – with a rally that included a Machado double – Trea Turner hit with a homer to equalize, his second long ball of the series.

In a game that many expected to score few points — the total or “over/under” was 7 — the offenses teamed up for six runs and four homers in the first three innings.

The action wasn’t limited to home runs or the first three innings, either.

Dodgers Defense gives and takes away in sixth

Missing in the sixth, Trea Turner blundered a Wil Myers grounder. Next came Jurickson Profar, to whom he secured the undeserved run.

Then, in an attempted safety pinch, Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol made a shortstop-like play to snag the runner at home. Austin Nola followed up with a rocket to center that want scored two runs. Instead, Cody Bellinger made an over-the-shoulder catch in the warning lane.

Suarez’s magic in the bottom half

The action didn’t let up. An infield single by Will Smith was followed by a line-shot single by Max Muncy, which put the runners in first and third place, with no outs in sixth place for the Dodgers. The Padres removed starter Yu Darvish and traded in relieved Robert Suarez. In such situations, it’s not so bad to just give up a run. The only way to realistically not allow a run would be to strike out, or strike out and double play.

Suarez got away with the latter. He knocked out Justin Turner and then prompted an inning-ending twin kill from Gavin Lux.

Back then, it felt like the Padres had taken total control of the game.

Of course, they had to deal with another major threat.

Suarez also escapes in the seventh

With one at the end of seventh, Cody Bellinger singled and Mookie Betts sent a liner into the left-center gap. Padre’s midfielder Trent Grisham tried hard and it could be argued he should have caught it – although it would have been a spectacular catch – but instead missed. Bellinger ended up in third place, having to hang around first in case Grisham caught it, so the Betts double gave the Dodgers the second- and third-place runners with an out.

With the infield in, Trea Turner hit a hard grounder straight at Manny Machado, who looked back at Bellinger before getting the runner first (the throw pulled first baseman Wil Myers out of the pocket and he did well to adapt and then avoid , falling into the trap set by Turner, who went down hoping to lure Myers into a rundown).

After deliberately walking with Freddie Freeman, Suarez gave Will Smith a hard line, but Grisham was perfectly positioned and the threat was over.

The Padres still had six outs to go while holding on to that one-run lead.

Let’s tip our hats to Robert Suarez though. The 31-year-old reliever, who spent his career in Mexico and Japan, had never played in minor league baseball as of 2022. On April 7, he made his MLB debut with the Padres and started a very good rookie year.

And it’s possible he just recorded the six biggest outs of the Padres season.

Cronenworth’s insurance

Maybe he felt his teammates had to work up too much a sweat up the hill with that one-run lead because Jake Cronenworth smashed an amazing home run with an eighth-place out.

That’s 416 feet of breathing space. The insurance run gave the Padres a 5-3 lead.

Hader’s four save

The drama was far from over. With two outs at the end of the round of 16, Gavin Lux singled out and Padres manager Bob Melvin chose to get closer to Josh Hader. Only four outs remained, but Hader hadn’t gone more than an inning since August. 14th, 2020, the date of his last save of four.

Hader also had a terrible pitching streak this year. From July 4 to 8-28, Hader appeared in 17 games and allowed runs in nine of them, adding up to a miserable 17.31 ERA at that stretch. He hasn’t allowed a earned run in his last 10 games so it’s possible he’s fixed, but there’s always that worry of his struggles coming back.

Hader walked Trayce Thompson but then got Austin Barnes to fly to deep center to finish the eighth. He hit two outs in the ninth before Freddie Freeman crushed a ball off the right center wall that looked like it was a home run from the start but fell to a double. Will Smith hit the plate on the tying run and flew too low to the right on a hard liner.

It wasn’t clean, but Hader slowed the Flashes, especially when he knocked out Trea Turner for the second of nine where he looked like an old Hader. It’s something to keep in mind as you progress through this series.

Playoff Kershaw?

Fair or not, Clayton Kershaw’s choking theme in the playoffs is a favorite for many. He’s absolutely not a choke artist or anything so extreme, having had a litany of great outings under immense pressure. It’s just not fair to say that he somehow shys away from every big moment.

However, he was a decent touch worse in his career in the playoffs, and it’s not a bunch of small samples. Coming into this game, he had a career 2.48 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in the regular season compared to 4.19 and 1.07. His home run rate in the playoffs (1.3 HR/9) was nearly double his regular-season home run rate (0.7 HR/9).

This was a mixed bag. He struck six without walking anyone. He also gave up three runs in six hits — including a home run and a double — in five innings. That’s a 5.40 ERA and 1.20 WHIP after posting 2.28 and .94 in the regular season.

He definitely wasn’t bad and didn’t “choke”. He didn’t lose the Dodgers the game. He matched Yu Darvish by allowing three runs in five innings. He wasn’t good enough to shut up the naysayers either. The narrative lives to fight another day. It’s persistent.

Next up: Game 3 Friday

After a day off on Thursday, this series moves to San Diego’s Petco Park for Game 3 on Friday. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. ET.

The Padres start with left-hander Blake Snell. Looking like his old Cy Young self on the course, he posted a 2.19 ERA (2.23 FIP) in his last 14 starts, while hitting 105 in 78 innings during that span. He was poor last time out, though, against the Mets in the Wild Card Series, going six and giving up a home run in his 3 1/3 innings. The last time he saw the Dodgers, he threw five to a goalless pitch, but was shot at by them the last time.

The Dodgers start straight with Tony Gonsolin (16-1, 2.14). He was actually a run down this season, but it was still a sparkling 2.66 ERA. He faced the Padres just once and gave up just one run in seven innings of work. It could be a short outing, however, as Gonsolin missed all of September with a forearm injury. He had a two-inning tune on October 3, throwing 40 pitches.

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