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

The San Diego Padres defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3, in Game 2 of the NLDS on Wednesday. The Padres’ win means they’ve tied the best of five series at 1-1, so that equates to a three-game series now with the Padres having home court. It was the beginning of the end of the most entertaining game of the 2022 playoffs to date and one of the most entertaining baseball games to be seen. There was action on top of drama on top of more action.

Let’s dive. It won’t be exhaustive, because there were too many funny things.

Bombs away early

The fun started almost immediately.

Manny Machado hit Clayton Kershaw in the first to give the Padres an early lead.

Freddie Freeman homered in the bottom half to tie things up. Max Muncy homered in the second to give the Dodgers a lead. After the Padres scored two goals in the top of the third — with a rally that included a double from Machado — Trea Turner homered to tie, her second long ball of the series.

In a game that many expected to be low in runs – the total, or “over/under” was 7 – the forwards teamed up for six runs and four home runs over the first three innings.

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

Dodgers defense give and take in sixth

With one out in the sixth, Trea Turner erred on a ground pitch by Wil Myers. Next up was Jurickson Profar, who he brought home with the unearned run.

Then, on a safety pressure attempt, Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol made a shortstop-like play to catch the home runner. Austin Nola followed with a flare down the center that would have scored two points. Instead, Cody Bellinger did an over the shoulder grab on the warning track.

Suarez’s magic in the bottom half

The action has not slowed down. A single from Will Smith in the field was followed by a single from Max Muncy, putting the runners first and third with no outs in sixth for the Dodgers. The Padres retired starter Yu Darvish and traded Robert Suarez in relief. In situations like these, giving up a single race isn’t that bad. Pretty much the only realistic way to not allow a run would be to get strikeouts or a strikeout and a double play.

Suarez came with the latter. He hit Justin Turner and then caused a late inning twin killing Gavin Lux’s bat.

At the time, it felt like the Padres were taking complete control of the game.

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

Suarez also escapes in the seventh

With an out in the bottom of the seventh, Cody Bellinger singled and Mookie Betts sent a one-liner into the left center spread. Padres center back Trent Grisham made a big effort and you could argue he should have caught it – although it would have been a spectacular catch – but instead missed it. Bellinger finished third, as he needed to stay first in case Grisham caught him, so Betts’ brace gave the Dodgers runners second and third with one out.

With the infield drawn, Trea Turner hit hard ground directly at Manny Machado, who looked back at Bellinger before getting the runner early (the throw caught first baseman Wil Myers out of the sack and he well done to adapt and then avoid falling into the trap set by Turner, who descended to the ground in hopes of luring Myers into a rundown).

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

The Padres still had six outs to go while clinging to that one-point lead.

However, let’s leave our caps to Robert Suarez. The 31-year-old reliever, who has spent his career playing in Mexico and Japan, had never even been in Minor League Baseball until 2022. On April 7, he made his MLB debut with the Padres and kicked off a very strong rookie year.

And it’s possible he had the Padres’ six biggest strikeouts of the season.

Cronenworth’s Assurance

Perhaps he felt like his teammates on the mound must have been sweating too much with that one-run lead, as Jake Cronenworth crushed a prodigious one-out home run in the eighth.

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

Hader four-out save

The drama was far from over. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Gavin Lux picked and Padres manager Bob Melvin decided to move closer to Josh Hader. There were only four outs left, but Hader hadn’t played more than one inning since Aug. 14, 2020, when he last made a four-out stoppage.

Hader also had an atrocious throwing streak this year. From July 4 to August 28, Hader appeared in 17 games and allowed runs in nine of them, totaling a miserable 17.31 ERA in that streak. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 10 outings, so it’s possible he’ll be fixed, but there’s always that worry that his struggles will return.

Hader walked Trayce Thompson but then had Austin Barnes fly out to deep center to finish the eighth. In the ninth, he got two out before Freddie Freeman smashed a home run on the right-center wall that looked like a home run but fell for a double. Will Smith came to home plate as the run tied and flew to the deep right on a hard lining.

It wasn’t clean, but Hader slowed down the lightning, especially taking out Trea Turner for the second on the ninth, where he looked like vintage Hader. This is something to keep in mind moving forward in this series.

Kershaw in the playoffs?

Fair or not, the subject of Clayton Kershaw “choking” in the playoffs is a favorite for many. He’s absolutely not a throttled artist or anything that extreme, as he’s had a litany of great releases under immense pressure. It’s just not accurate to suggest that he backs down one way or another at every big moment.

He’s been a lot worse in his playoff career, though, and it’s not a whole lot of flukes. Going 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 that of the regular season (0.7 HR/9).

This one was a mixed bag. He pulled out six without stepping on anyone. He also allowed three runs on 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 0.94 in the regular season.

It certainly wasn’t bad and didn’t “choke”. He didn’t lose the Dodgers game. He tied Yu Darvish by giving up three runs in five innings. Nor was he good enough to silence naysayers. The narrative lives to fight another day. It’s persistent.

Next step: match 3 on Friday

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

The Padres will start left-hander Blake Snell. He looked like his former Cy Young himself on the stretch, posting a 2.19 ERA (2.23 FIP) in his last 14 starts while striking out 105 in 78 innings over that span. He was bad last time out, however, against the Mets in the Wild Card Series, walking six and giving up a homer in 3 1/3 innings. He threw five scoreless the last time he saw the Dodgers, but was bombarded by them the previous time.

The Dodgers will start right-hander Tony Gonsolin (16-1, 2.14). He was actually worse on the road this season, but it was still a sparkling 2.66 ERA. He’s only faced the Padres once and allowed just one run in seven innings of work. It could be a short outing, however, as Gonsolin missed the entire month of September with a forearm injury. He had a two-inning shakedown on Oct. 3 in which he threw 40 pitches.

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