While I had concerns about the layoff and how the Dodgers would come out in a key Game 1, it turned out they were ready from the get go. They jumped out to an early lead in the first half of the game and Julio Urias was cruising, so for a moment in the middle innings, it felt like the euphoric feeling would last.
But just as baseball has a tendency to do, it quickly checked the Dodgers right back into the cycle of anxiety and dread by the end as the Dodgers pen barely closed out a 5-3 win over the Padres in Game 1 of the NLDS.
By far the biggest advantage the Dodgers have in this series is in Game 1 and getting to face Mike Clevinger to kick things off. The lineup thankfully took full advantage of this early and often to get the crowd right into it.
Of all the hitters, Trea Turner was the one to strike first, absolutely ambushing a quality fastball and taking it out to left for a 1-0 lead.
Later in the 1st with two outs, Will Smith yanked a double and Max Muncy followed with a surprisingly defensive swing on 3-1 count that got through the shift for a single and a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, after a Justin Turner walk put Muncy in scoring position, a Gavin Lux liner ended the rally.
Clevinger then looked to settle in with a nine-pitch 2nd inning, but the Dodgers got right back to it in the 3rd with a lead-off double from Trea that was cashed in by Will trading places with him for a 3-0 lead.
A walk followed to put two on, and with two outs it was Lux who came up big with a double to up the lead to 4-0 and knock Clevinger out with just 3.2 frames covered.
Steven Wilson took over in the 4th and walked Trayce Thompson to load the bases. Cody Bellinger then fought through a seven-pitch at-bat, including faking getting hit by a pitch, all to seemingly ground out to first but Wil Myers bobbled it for another run and a 5-0 lead.
Wilson then rebounded by getting Mookie Betts to eventually fly out, despite hanging like three sliders to him. He then got a scoreless 4th before exiting the game, and his limiting of disaster proved relevant later.
So at that point it was 5-0, and that zero was up there because Julio Urias was dominant early, seemingly having some of his best stuff to start the playoffs.
Urias started with a 12-pitch inning in the 1st that generated three groundouts, then got a 14-pitch inning in the 2nd that included a strikeout and a pair of flyouts.
Urias then struck out the side in the 3rd, but did run into his first minor trouble after a two-out double by Austin Nola broke up the streak of eight Padres retired to start the game.
Urias then rebounded with another clean inning, getting a jolt on a lineout to start and taking a bit longer with 16 pitches, but getting a pair of strikeouts to close the frame and keep things at 5-0.
Surprisingly, Urias quickly got knocked around in the 5th, which quickly became a rally for the Padres. Myers led off the inning with a homer off a curve that barely got over the wall and was upheld on review to cut the lead to 5-1.
No big deal, right? Well no, but Jake Cronenworth followed with a single and then Ha-Seong Kim then doubled to put two in scoring position with nobody out in the 5th. The Padres then got the small-ball runs in thanks to a Trent Grisham groundout and an Nola sacrifice fly, despite both getting down 0-2. That cut the lead to 5-3 before Urias was able to get out of the 5th, and that 23-pitch inning ended his night.
Urias was better than his line looked, but big innings hurt: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 79 Pitches.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers couldn’t get anything going against the Padres pen. Pierce Johnson cruised through 1-2-3 frames in both the 5th and 6th to keep his team right in it. Tim Hill then absolutely breezed through an eight-pitch 7th, and Nick Martinez got a perfect 11-pitch frame in the 8th to close the book on the Dodgers.
A combination of a job well done from them and just absolutely giving away at-bats from the Dodgers lineup.
So that left things up to the Dodgers pen to match them, and they started out surprisingly shakily with their best reliever Evan Phillips struggling in the 6th. He issued a lead-off walk to Juan Soto and got unlucky with a dribbler down the line staying fair for a Manny Machado single to put the tying run on base. Thankfully, for the most part he was very lucky as Phillips didn’t have his command at all, hanging breaking ball after breaking ball, but he ended up rebounding nevertheless with a strikeout and a stellar double play by Lux and Trea with Myers up to escape with no damage done.
Alex Vesia followed him in the 7th, striking out the side in the inning despite giving up a single. He then continued in the 8th due to match up reasons and got a pair of outs that ended with getting a routine fly ball from Soto. Valiant and important performance to get five outs.
Dave Roberts then turned to Brusdar Graterol to get Machado, which seemed to be his first tactical misstep, but Brusdar got a first-pitch fly out that was hit about a mile up and was knocked down by the wind to end the 8th.
Protecting a two-run lead in the 9th, the Dodgers turned to Chris Martin as closer. He started the inning by getting a tough roller in front of the mound that he took himself to the bag, then induced a groundout to put the Dodgers on the brink. However, a Cronenworth single brought up the game-tying run in Kim, but Martin got him to fly out on a hanger to end it.
One down, 10 to go.
If Sandy Koufax is happy then I’m happy.
The Dodgers take a 1-0 lead over the Padres in the NLDS in a game they really had to get in order for things to not get immediately dicey.