LOS ANGELES — It was as fired up as Evan Phillips could ever remember being on a mound.
Before the typically cool-headed Dodgers reliever faces a batter, he turns around to check where his infielders are positioned. That’s why he still felt confident when Wil Myers laced a scorching one-hopper 100.1 mph off the bat toward the right side of the infield with one out and the tying runs on base in the sixth inning Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Gavin Lux, perfectly positioned at second base, ranged to his left, stabbed the grounder and, in one quick motion, spun and threw to Trea Turner. The Dodgers’ shortstop retrieved the dart, shuffled his feet over the second-base bag, gathered himself and fired to first to eliminate the best threat the Padres would conjure the rest of the night in a 5-3 win to start the National League Division Series.
“It’s a tough one,” Turner said. “He has to kind of make that 360. I’m coming across the bag, so he has to make a good throw to me as well. A lot has to go right to make that play.”
It all did.
Phillips pumped his fist and let out a yell. From the dugout, starter Julio Urías did the same before slapping his hands against the dugout railing. In the crowd, 52,407 fans could exhale. The nifty play up the middle thwarted all the momentum San Diego had gathered in a three-run fifth inning, setting the Dodgers back on course.
“They made it look really easy,” third baseman Max Muncy said. “I can tell you right now, that’s not an easy play, especially in that moment.”
Trea Turner reflects on the Dodgers’ victory over the Padres in Game 1 of the NLDS in a postgame interview with Tom Verducci.
With both their gloves and their bats, Lux and Turner led the way Tuesday.
By the time Lux doubled down the right-field line in the third inning, knocking Padres starter Mike Clevinger out of the contest, the game already felt all but over. It looked like more of the same for the Dodgers, who for years have had the number of their rivals to the south.
In 2020, the Padres made their first playoff appearance in 14 years before the Dodgers disposed of them in a three-game sweep in the NLDS. Last year, the Dodgers were 12-7 against San Diego, which missed the postseason. This year, the Dodgers outscored the Padres by 62 runs over 19 games, compiling a 14-5 record against them in the process.
Immediately in Game 1, Turner continued to do to Clevinger what the Dodgers have done all year. Clevinger was 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers entering Tuesday, when Turner started the scoring by smoking a 419-foot home run to the Left Field Pavilion.
“It was huge for us to get going right away,” Muncy said afterward.
Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner launches a solo home run off Mike Clevinger to give L.A. a 1-0 lead over the San Diego Padres.
It was equally huge for that specific player to get going.
Turner hadn’t felt right at the plate late in the year. His numbers still popped off the page by season’s end — he’s the first Dodgers shortstop ever to post 20 homers, 20 stolen bases, 100 runs and 100 RBIs in a season — but he could often be found taking extra batting practice in an effort to feel right again. Too often, he thought his timing was late, which created bad habits.
But something seemed to click in the final game of the regular season, when Turner mashed a three-run homer against the Rockies. And despite a five-day layoff for the division-winning Dodgers before the start of the NLDS, Turner seemed to carry that momentum into Tuesday.
“Just being earlier and on time cleans up a lot of things,” he said. “Just keep talking it over with the hitting coaches and some of my teammates, and I think it just kind of comes down to timing. That’s kind of the small adjustment I’ve made these last six at-bats or so, along with some other things.”
Turner, who registered just two extra-base hits in 12 postseason games with the Dodgers last year, mashed an extra-base hit in his first two at-bats against the Padres. Catcher Will Smith did the same.
The Dodgers led 5-0 after three innings with Urías cruising. The left-hander hadn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his final 14 starts of the season, nor had he allowed more than two runs in any of his four starts against San Diego. But the Padres wouldn’t fold, demonstrating the resilience of a team that already overcame the odds once this postseason.
San Diego’s first three batters reached base to start the fifth inning, and all three scored. An inning later, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts deployed his best high-leverage weapon in Phillips to face the heart of the Padres’ order. Juan Soto walked to start the inning. Manny Machado followed with a dribbler single. Phillips got a vital strikeout of pinch-hitter Josh Bell before the Dodgers’ middle infielders answered the call with the monumental double-play.
That was the last real threat posed to the Dodgers, whose bullpen secured the win from there.
“I try not to show too much emotion, but in a big spot like that, getting a big out, it means a lot for the team,” Phillips said. “I know what it did for us for the rest of the game.”