The Dodgers and Padres met in San Diego on Friday for the first postseason game at Petco Park—with fans—since Oct. 5, 2006.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was the Padres’ leadoff hitter in that game, but the organization looked much different then than it does now.
San Diego used to be a small market team with a modest payroll. But that all changed in 2019 when they signed former Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract.
The team promised to spend and build around him. They went from the seventh lowest payroll ($104 million) in 2018 to the fifth highest payroll in 2022 ($237.7 million). Pointing to the Dodgers’ consistently high payroll was no longer an excuse and the Padres were built to beat their neighbors to the north now and for the foreseeable future.
That was more than evident in the Padres’ 2-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS that gave San Diego a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Padres made starting pitching a point of emphasis after signing Machado, and acquired all five members of their 2022 starting rotation via trade. The trend also landed superstar Juan Soto at the deadline this year and bolstered an already good bullpen with All-Star closer Josh Hader. All of those aforementioned acquisitions are why the Padres are one win away from advancing to the NLCS, something the 2006 team was unable to do.
Baseball itself looks a lot different than it did in 2006. The pitching angle, defensive changes and sabermetrics now dominate the game. The term “bullpen” has now become a verb, and a starting pitcher who lasts seven or more innings is as rare as a Tyrannosaurus Rex walking through the Gaslamp.
That was the case for both starting pitchers Friday night, which ironically is the rematch of Games 2 and 6 of the 2020 World Series. Similar to those games, Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin lasted just one and one-third innings.
Gonsolin acted as the opener, and faced just nine batters before giving way to left-hander Andrew Heaney. Heaney threw the ball well in his first postseason action outside of an elevated first-inning fastball he threw to Trent Grisham.
Heaney lasted longer than any other Dodgers pitcher, going three innings before Yency Almonte entered with one out in the fifth. Then there was San Diego native Alex Vesia who walked two batters before giving way to Evan Phillips who retired the next four batters he faced before Tommy Kahnle pitched a perfect inning in relief in the eighth.
If the Dodgers want to extend this streak and return to the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium for Game 5, they will need Game 4 starter Tyler Anderson to pitch deep into Saturday’s game.
In the end, the Padres prevailed because of their bullpen and the Dodgers’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position. San Diego’s reliever has a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings through the first three games of this series.
Either the Padres bullpen is perfection epitomized at preventing runs, or the Dodgers hitters have helped them out by failing to record a big hit when the opportunity is prevented.
Since Gavin Lux’s double in the third inning of Game 1, the Dodgers have gone 0-for-19 with runners in scoring position, their longest streak since 1981. They have also left a total of 23 runners on base in the series.
San Diego had no such problems. Jake Cronenworth laced a two-RBI single to left field in the Padres’ second inning with a runner in scoring position.
Trent Grisham continued his hot streak with his third homer of the postseason. Grisham batted just .184 during the regular season, but is hitting a whopping .438 so far in the playoffs.
The Dodgers scored their first run of the series after the third inning when Mookie Betts hit a sacrifice fly to right field in the top of the fifth. However, for what seems like the hundredth time in the series, they stranded a runner on third base with one out.
Snell’s dominant slider and fastball powered the Dodgers for most of the night, recording six strikeouts in five and one-third innings.
For all their collective talent, depth and record 111 wins, the mighty Dodgers look the best against the Padres. Before the series began, the players preached that their regular-season dominance over their division rival meant nothing. It seems they were right.
Game 4 is Saturday night at 6:37pm PT on FS1.