The Dodgers beat the Padres, 7-4, on Wednesday afternoon action in Petco Park. The win moved the Dodgers to 35-15 on the season while dropping the upstart Padres to 32-19. This ends the season series with the Dodgers having taken six of the 10 games between the two teams.
Here are six more things to know.
Battle of playoff aces went to Padres
Though both teams have more than one frontline starter heading toward the playoffs, if the two teams could set up for one game with their choice at starting pitcher right now, it would probably be Dinelson Lamet (3-1, 2.12 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 79 K, 17 BB, 59 1/3 IP) against Clayton Kershaw (5-2, 2.28 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 53 K, 8 BB, 47 1/3 IP).
It was quite the duel. The Dodgers got a run in the third and it was 0-0 before Trent Grisham homered off Clayton Kershaw (more on that in a bit) in the bottom of the sixth. Kershaw left with two baserunners in the seventh and they both scored, so we ended up seeing Lamet (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K) get the better of the former MVP and three-time Cy Young winner (6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K).
The win had to be confidence-inspiring for the Padres. They had cut the NL West lead to just 1 1/2 games with two left to play in the series? Could they possibly ...
Dodgers showed they are still the team to beat
The Dodgers are the best team in baseball and have won the NL West seven straight times. There are two NL pennants and two 100-plus win seasons in there. They have been to the NLCS four times in those seven playoff trips.
The Padres haven't been to the playoffs since 2006 and haven't been past the divisional round since 1998. That's before their best player was born.
This series (and more, as we'll get to later) are showing that the Padres are up to the task of competing with and pushing the Dodgers right now, but might not just be ready to take them down. They haven't finished yet. So far in 2020, the Dodgers are still the elite team in the West and they have shown it in this series.
The Dodgers clinched a playoff spot
In no way heading into the season was simply "making the playoffs" a goal for the Dodgers, given their recent history. Nonetheless, the have clinched a playoff berth. That's eight straight times in the postseason, which is a franchise record.
A bigger goal here is to clinch the NL West for the eighth straight time. Their magic number to take care of that one is six over the Padres.
Betts with an MVP leg up?
Right now in the National League, it really looks like the MVP is going to be decided between Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatis. For most of the season, it has felt like Tatis had the leg up. After this series, it very well might have shifted to Betts. Take a look.
Betts: .306/.381/.597, 160 wRC+, 9 2B, 15 HR, 35 RBI, 37 R, 9 SB
Tatis: .286/.369/.582, 151 wRC+, 10 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 46 R, 9 SB
Both are excellent defenders, though Tatis' shortstop is more important than right field. Betts has a decent lead in baseball-reference.com WAR while Tatis has likewise a decent lead in Fangraphs' version. The Dodgers have a 3 1/2 game lead and that could well become the tiebreaker.
Even if some would pick Betts right now, it's far too close to call with a week and a half left. Stay tuned.
If Betts does win, the joins Frank Robinson as the only players in baseball history to win an MVP in each league, as he took AL honors in 2018. If Tatis wins, he becomes the youngest MVP ever. Vida Blue won in 1971 in his age-21 season, but he turned 22 during the season. Tatis doesn't turn 22 until January.
File away the "controversy" for later
Even if somehow the Padres find a way to pass the Dodgers without playing them again head to head, these are going to be the one and four seeds in the NL, again, with the most likely setup being the Dodgers at the top and the Padres as the four seed, despite likely having the second-best record in the NL. That means what is also the most likely scenario -- though a three-game series in the first round lends itself to all kinds of flukiness -- is these two teams meet in the NLDS, which is a five-game series.
Sometimes in longer series, some bad blood develops. Now, these teams have already seen each other 10 times. Plus, the Padres are the newcomers with some serious swagger that some would call cockiness. The Dodgers are the established powerhouse team who are possibly annoyed with the Padres trying to hang with them. On that front, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts after the first game of the series didn't care for Trent Grisham taking too much time admiring a home run. No, not because he's against that in general, but because it was off of all-timer Clayton Kershaw.
It was a head-scratcher. Logically, if anything, shouldn't it be the opposite? Say a player hits a home run off a guy with a seven-plus ERA who leads the majors in home runs allowed. I'd be good with a "dude, everyone hits one off him. Just run!" dressing down. Instead, a young player hit a game-tying homer against Clayton Freaking Kershaw in a huge series and he's supposed to act like he's been there before? He hasn't!
Regardless, I'm not mad. In fact, quite the opposite. It was funny and now looking forward to a likely second-round bout, there's already some groundwork laid for the two teams possibly not caring much for one another.
Speaking of ...
The Dodgers appear to be the Padres' "road block" team
Remember how the Red Sox hadn't won the World Series since 1918 and came from a 3-0 series deficit to win the 2004 ALCS against their long-time nemesis, the Yankees? They then won the World Series. It always felt like they had to beat the Yankees, didn't it?
On a lesser scale, the Cubs in 2015 took down the 100-win Cardinals and it felt like that was their beast to slay, even if it was one year earlier. They won the division and the World Series the next season.
How about the Nationals last year? You could argue they just needed to advance a round. They never had before their eighth-inning comeback in the wild card game. Then they took down the mighty Dodgers -- who, by the way, knocked out the 95-win, 2016 Nationals in a dramatic game five after the Nats held a 2-1 series lead.
It's shaping up to look like the Dodgers are the team the Padres need to slay before they can fully break through. Not only are the Dodgers the best team in the NL with the Padres the second best right now, but here's how their three series went this year.
- Padres win on Aug. 3, lose the next two to Dodgers.
- Padres win on Aug. 10 and 11; lose the next two to the Dodgers by a combined 17-2 score.
- Padres win this past Monday for their eighth straight victory. The Dodgers respond by winning the next two days.
The Dodgers to this point are the Padres' nemesis. If that changes, they just might be passing out rings in Petco Park sometime soon.