The reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed in their series opener against the San Diego Padres on Friday night at Petco Park by a score of 11-6 in 12 innings.
This tilt between the two NL West rivals and World Series hopefuls featured levels of intensity and engagement that are typically hard to find while the calendar still says April, and for much of the night it was a taut, back-and-forth affair. Given the rivalry, the possible stakes out west this season, and the compelling nature of the first Dodgers-Pads scrap of 2021, it all merits further breakdown. Let's do that now.
Ryan Weathers looked strong in his first career start
Weathers, the 21-year-old lefty and former No. 7 overall pick, had looked good in three relief appearances in this, his rookie season. On Friday, though, he was tabbed to make his first career start against the juggernaut Dodgers. Despite some early problems getting on the same page with catcher Luis Campusano, Weathers delivered:
He might not be fully stretched out yet as a starter at the highest level, which explains the relatively modest workload, but there's also something to be said for not letting him face the mighty L.A. lineup a third time in his first start.
Luke Raley hit his first career homer
Luke Raley? Sure, Luke Raley:
The 26-year-old rookie outfielder is a bit of an unlikely presence on the Dodger roster -- he was called up after Cody Bellinger hit the IL with a leg injury -- but he came up big on Friday. The Dodgers' roster depth grows more unfathomable by the hour.
Fernando Tatis Jr. homered in his first game back from a shoulder injury
Friday's game marked Tatis' first since April 5, when he dislocated his left shoulder on a swing and miss. Initially, it was feared that the young superstar (who not long ago signed a $340 million extension) would require surgery, but that turned out not to be the case; he was activated on Friday. So would an injury to his front shoulder at the plate affect his power? Ask Walker Buehler's fastball:
Tatis later undid some of that good work with a throwing error that allowed the Dodgers to temporarily retake the lead, but seeing him go yard in his first game back was a huge lift for the Padres. Also, note that he's now keeping the top hand on the bat, possibly to help protect that shoulder.
Jurickson Profar did it in the field and at the plate
First, please admire this five-star snare from Profar in the third inning:
That one had a catch probability of 25 percent, but Profar did not appear daunted by the long odds. Even more essential to the Padres' hopes was Profar's cluch two-out double in the eighth that plated a pair of runs and tied the game:
Profar's off to a strong start in 2021.
Manny Machado did some work on the bases in the ninth to tie it up
This montage does a good job of quickly running down Machado's painful, grimace-filled trip around the bases in the ninth with the Padres down by a run:
That's some October-grade enthusiasm in April right there. Machado isn't known as a burner, but he's already got three stolen bases on the season.
The benches cleared in extras
In the bottom of the 10th, Dodgers righty Dennis Santana plunked San Diego's Jorge Mateo, and the two appeared to exchange words as Mateo made his way to first base. That led to the benches clearing and bullpens emptying, although no punches were thrown:
These two teams will play 18 more times during the 2021 regular season
The Pads had their chances in extras
In the 10th, pinch-hitter Victor Caratini struck out with automatic runner Wil Myers on third (he had previously advanced on Profar's deep fly) and one out. Then the Padres loaded the bases thanks to a Trent Grisham walk, but Tatis struck out looking for the third out. In the 11th, the Padres had runners on the corners and one out, but Eric Hosmer and Myers each struck out. They soon would learn you can't give an offense like L.A.'s that many chances.
The Dodgers blew it open in the 12th
First, Corey Seager put two on the board with one swing -- against a lefty side-armer no less:
And from there, the Dodgers blew it open. Justin Turner singled, Will Smith popped out, Max Muncy singled, Chris Taylor loaded the bases when he reached on a Tatis error, Zach McKinstry singled home another run, Raley did the same. All right, at this point let's sum up the mounting absurdities with this sentence:
Batter David Price hit a sac fly off pitcher Jake Cronenworth to left fielder Joe Musgrove.
Everything about that is true.
Counting the 2020 NLDS, the Dodgers have now won six in a row vs. the Padres
The Dodgers are also 12-2 on the season (!), and they lead the Padres and San Francisco Giants by 3½ games in the NL West. They'll face the Pads again on Saturday, and nothing short of mayhem is rightly anticipated.