San Diego – It all started out a lot like last October for the Dodgers.
The defense was giving up a pitching team that threw plenty of zeros against one of the best lineups in baseball. The Dodgers offense was to leave runners on base at an alarming clip. The Padres, on the other hand, were playing like a more confident team.
But all that changed with one swing of a star.
With Los Angeles coming to an end, Mookie Betts rose to the occasion, slapping the game-tying homer off Padres All-Star near Josh Hader. In the 10th, rookies Michael Bosh and James Ottman pitched to help the Dodgers secure their first series between the two division rivals with a 5-2 victory Sunday at Petco Park.
“He’s the best player on the field,” Dodgers coach Dave Roberts said of Bates. “He should always believe in that, and the great thing about this game is the players win the game. Today, [Betts] He had the chance and he stuck with us.”
After a hot start to May, Bates had a tough weekend at the plate. But it’s his ability to change the game with one hit of the bat that makes him one of the best catchers in baseball. And when his team needed him most, Bates was able to run a growling 3-1 fastball and send it into the benches.
It was a huge blow to the sold-out Petco Park crowd, and paved the way for the Dodgers’ young players to work in the Tenth. That was when Bosh, who hadn’t taken a bat since Tuesday, handed the go-ahead two-run RBI single off Brent Honeywell. Outman followed up with a homer to extend the lead to three runs.
“There’s nothing like it,” Busch said of Majors’ clutch hitting. “It’s great to help this team win, especially in a place like this. It’s a tough place to win and to get two out of three here, I think that’s very big for the team.”
Although the offense was late, this rally was made possible by stellar performances by Julio Urías and the Dodgers Bulls. In the first half, Uriahs was not helped by his defense, as Bates and Ottman both committed errors on the field. But that didn’t stop the Mexican left fielder from settling into the game and keeping the Dodgers at close range.
Urías worked through some traffic, eventually allowing only two first-half runs and writing off three tires on 5 2/3 tires.
“They know me, and I know them. It’s a game that whoever has the best game plan wins,” Urías said in Spanish. “This rivalry between us was important. They have a great team, we have a great team.”
Heading into the weekend series, the Dodgers maintained their stance that this was just another game against a division opponent. They weren’t aiming to avenge last October’s postseason loss or prove something after the Padres’ busy season ended.
The Dodgers said much of the same after Sunday’s win. But one thing they learned over the weekend is that it’s getting hotter in this new Southern California rivalry. Petco Park scoreboard operator mocked Clayton Kershaw with a crying meme after Friday’s game, and a fan held up a banner during Saturday’s game directed at Betts, which the right-hander promptly brought up during a post-game interview.
“100 percent,” Bates said, when asked if this series had more obvious off-field moments than in the past. “These are just tactics to try to get under our skins, to make us act unnatural. … We are the ones who decide the matches.”
Instead, those “freaks,” as Bates called them, may have helped the Dodgers match the level of intensity the Padres have been playing against Los Angeles since the NLDS last year. When Kershaw was asked about the meme, the future Hall of Famer took the high road and argued that those things wouldn’t happen if the Dodgers won.
They won’t say it publicly, but some of their actions suggest that maybe a trip back to Petco Park, the place where their season ended six months ago, is just what they need.
As Urias said: “He who laughs last laughs the most.”
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