The San Diego Padres took down the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3, in Game 2 of the NLDS Wednesday. The Padres’ win means they’ve evened the best-of-five series at 1-1, so it’s tantamount to a three-game series now with the Padres having home-field. This was start to finish the most entertaining game of the 2022 postseason to this point and one of the more entertaining baseball games one might see. There was action on top of drama on top of more action.
Let’s dive in. This won’t be exhaustive, because there was just too much fun stuff.
Bombs away early
The fun started nearly immediately.
Manny Machado homered off Clayton Kershaw in the first to give the Padres a quick 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 in the top of the third — with a rally that included a Machado double — Trea Turner homered to tie it, his second long ball of the series.
In a game many expected to be low-scoring — the total, or “over/under” was 7 — the offenses teamed up for six runs and four home runs through 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
With one out in the sixth, Trea Turner committed an error on a Wil Myers grounder. Next up was Jurickson Profar, who he singled home the unearned run.
Then, on an attempted safety squeeze, Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol made a shortstop-like play to nab the runner at home. Austin Nola followed with a rocket to center that would have scored two runs. Instead, Cody Bellinger made an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track.
Suarez’s magic in the bottom half
The action didn’t slow down. A Will Smith infield single was followed by a line shot Max Muncy single, putting runners on first and third with no outs in the sixth for the Dodgers. The Padres removed starter Yu Darvish and swapped in Robert Suarez in relief. In situations like these, giving up just one run isn’t all that horrible. Just about the only way to realistically not allow a run would be to get strikeouts or a strikeout and a double play.
Suarez came through with the latter. He struck Justin Turner out and then induced an inning-ending twin killing off the bat of Gavin Lux.
At the time, it felt like the moment the Padres seized total control of the game.
Of course, they had to deal with another major threat.
Suarez escapes in the seventh, too
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Cody Bellinger singled and Mookie Betts sent a liner to the left-center gap. Padres center fielder Trent Grisham made a great effort and one could argue he should have caught it — though it would have been a spectacular catch — but instead missed it. Bellinger ended up on third, as he had to hang around first in case Grisham caught it, so the Betts double gave the Dodgers runners on second and third with one out.
With the infield drawn in, Trea Turner hit a hard grounder right at Manny Machado, who looked Bellinger back before getting the runner at first (the throw drew first baseman Wil Myers off the bag and he did well to adjust and then avoid falling into the trap set by Turner, who went down to the ground in hopes of luring Myers into a rundown).
After intentionally walking Freddie Freeman, Suarez gave up a hard line drive to Will Smith, but Grisham was positioned perfectly and the threat was over.
The Padres still had six outs to go while clinging to this one-run lead.
Still, let’s tip our caps to Robert Suarez. The 31-year-old reliever, who 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 launched a very good rookie year.
And it’s possible he just recorded the six biggest outs of the Padres’ season.
Perhaps he felt like his teammates on the mound were having to sweat it out too much with that one-run lead, because Jake Cronenworth crushed a prodigious home run with one out in the eighth.
That’s 416 feet of breathing room. The insurance run gave the Padres a 5-3 lead.
Hader’s four-out save
The drama was far from over. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Gavin Lux singled and Padres manager Bob Melvin decided to go to closer Josh Hader. Only four outs remained, but Hader hadn’t gone longer than an inning since Aug. 14, 2020, the date of his last four-out save.
Hader also famously had an atrocious stretch of pitching this year. From July 4 to Aug. 28, Hader appeared in 17 games and allowed runs in nine of them, adding up to a miserable 17.31 ERA in that stretch. He didn’t allow an earned run in his last 10 outings, so it’s possible he’s fixed, but there’s always that worry that his struggles come back.
Hader walked Trayce Thompson but then got Austin Barnes to fly out to deep center to end the eighth. In the ninth, he got two outs before Freddie Freeman crushed a ball off the right-center wall that looked like it might be a home run off the bat but fell for a double. Will Smith came to the plate as the tying run and flew out to deep right on a hard liner.
It wasn’t clean, but Hader slowed flashes, particularly in striking out Trea Turner for the second out of the ninth, where he looked like vintage Hader. It’s something to keep in mind moving forward in this series.
Fair or not, the subject of Clayton Kershaw “choking” in the playoffs is a favorite for many. He’s absolutely not a choke artist or anything that extreme, because he’s had a litany of great outings under immense pressure. It just isn’t accurate to suggest he somehow shrinks from every big moment.
He has, however, been a decent tick worse in his career in the playoffs and it’s not a bunch of small-sample flukiness. 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 rate of home runs allowed 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 struck out six without walking anyone. He also gave up three runs on six hits — including a home run and double — in five innings. That’s a 5.40 ERA and 1.20 WHIP after he posted 2.28 and 0.94 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 also wasn’t good enough to shut the naysayers up. The narrative lives to fight another day. It’s persistent.
Next up: Game 3 Friday
After an off-day on Thursday, this series moves to Petco Park in San Diego for Game 3 on Friday. The first pitch is set for 8:37 p.m. ET.
The Padres will start lefty Blake Snell. He looked like his old Cy Young self down the stretch, posting a 2.19 ERA (2.23 FIP) in his last 14 starts while striking out 105 in 78 innings in that span. He was bad last time out, though, against the Mets in the Wild Card Series, walking six and giving up a home run in his 3 1/3 innings. He threw five scoreless last time he saw the Dodgers, but was shelled by them the previous time.
The Dodgers will start righty Tony Gonsolin (16-1, 2.14). He was actually a run worse on the road this season, but it was still a sparkling 2.66 ERA. He only faced the Padres once and gave up just one run in seven innings of work. It might be a short outing, however, as Gonsolin missed all of September with a forearm injury. He had a two-inning tuneup on Oct. 3 in which he threw 40 pitches.