The Dodgers jumped out to an early five-run lead and held on for a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres in Chavez Ravine on Tuesday night, putting a heaping portion of pressure on their division rivals to win the second game of the best-of-five National League Division Series.
“Every game is urgent, every game matters to the highest extent at this moment,” Padres catcher Austin Nola said. “We’re going to bring our A game [Wednesday] and get after it the best we can.”
Before we move on to Game 2, here are four takeaways from Game 1:
Watching Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux turn Wil Myers’ 100-mph one-hopper to his left into a game-changing double play in the sixth inning was a reminder of how much of a stretch it was to think Lux could be converted to an outfielder last September and October.
A middle infielder by trade, Lux never looked comfortable in center field or left field. He slammed into the wall so hard and awkwardly one night that his teammates taped the outline of his body — like the chalk outline at a crime scene — onto the wall in Dodger Stadium.
“I think the outfield last year was a little bit of a grind,” Lux said. “Every game was a lot of anxiety running out there, just never really doing it and trying to grind through it and help the team any way possible. But yeah, I think second base is a lot more comfortable.”
That was clearly evident when, with two on, one out and the Dodgers clinging to a 5-3 lead, Lux stabbed Myers’ shot toward the hole, spun 360 degrees and threw to shortstop Trea Turner, who avoided the sliding Manny Machado and fired to first to complete an inning-ending double play.
“I thought it was almost past Gavin,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Wil did a nice job of staying inside that baseball, but Gavin got a good jump on it, didn’t panic and made a nice feed to Trea. For me, that was the play of the game.”
The Padres had scored three runs in the fifth to cut their deficit to 5-3, but the double play in the sixth behind reliever Evan Phillips swung the momentum back toward the Dodgers.
“It feels like a five-run lead in the playoffs isn’t enough,” Lux said. “You never really feel comfortable. So the double play and getting out of that jam was big. The momentum had shifted a little bit, and then we got it back.
“But that’s how the playoffs are. It’s like a pingpong table, back and forth, back and forth, and no one’s gonna give in, so a lot of games are going to be like that.”
All arms, no egos
The alignment and pecking order of a Dodgers bullpen that entered the playoffs without a set closer seemed to take shape in Game 1. Or did it?
Phillips, the setup man who replaced the injured Blake Treinen as the top high-leverage arm, was summoned to face the heart of the Padres order — Juan Soto, Machado and pinch-hitter Josh Bell — in the sixth.
Left-hander Alex Vesia replaced Phillips, and of the six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, three batted left-handed, and one was a switch-hitter.
Hard-throwing right-hander Brusdar Graterol came on with two out in the eighth and got Machado to fly out to left on the first pitch. Chris Martin, the veteran right-hander acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline, pitched the ninth for his first playoff save.
“I loved it, but we could see something completely different [Wednesday night], and I don’t want to show my hand too much,” Roberts said. “But it just kind of is the luxury of the latitude that we have with our guys, willing to pitch in any inning, any leverage.”
Many veteran relievers prefer to pitch in set roles so they can stick to their routines. These Dodgers relievers, most of whom are not household names, seem to thrive on the spontaneity.
“I really don’t think we put much into the big names or who’s getting those outs,” Phillips said. “I think we all just value each other as teammates, we value each other as a bullpen unit. So whenever the phone rings and our name is called, we treat every out equally, and we go out there and try to get the job done.”
Taking the fifth
If this series goes to a decisive Game 5 on Sunday, the Padres would be reluctant to start right-hander Mike Clevinger, who was rocked for five runs — four earned — and six hits in 2 2/3 innings Tuesday night, striking out three and walking two.
A shocker, this wasn’t. Clevinger, the team’s No. 4 starter, went 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA in three previous starts against the Dodgers this season, giving up 14 earned runs and 16 hits, including five homers, in 13 innings.
The Dodgers clearly have his number, scoring twice in the first inning of Game 1 on Turner’s solo homer and Max Muncy’s RBI single and three times in the third on doubles by Turner, Will Smith and Lux, and an error. Smith’s and Lux’s doubles drove in runs.
San Diego’s top three starters — Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove — are lined up for Games 2, 3 and 4. Sean Manaea would be an option for Game 5, but not a good one.
The left-hander went 8-9 with a 4.96 ERA and gave up 29 homers in 30 games this season. He had an 11.72 ERA in five games against the Dodgers, giving up 23 earned runs and 28 hits, including five homers.
A better Game 5 option would be a bullpen game, because as the Padres relievers showed in Game 1, they can be …
Freddie Freeman drew a one-out walk off Padres reliever Steven Wilson in the fourth inning. The Dodgers did not have a baserunner the rest of the game, with Wilson, Pierce Johnson, left-hander Tim Hill and Nick Martinez combining for 5 1/3 hitless innings with seven strikeouts in relief of Clevinger.
“We found a way to stay within ourselves and have good quality at-bats against Clevinger — he didn’t make some pitches here and there, and it kind of cost them,” Muncy said. “But their bullpen came in and executed their game plans to perfection. There wasn’t a whole lot of pitches over the plate for us to hit.”
The dominant relief effort didn’t even include the Padres’ best two relievers, setup man Robert Suarez and closer Josh Hader.
“They attacked, they threw the breaking ball for strikes, fastballs in good locations, and they were ahead in the count,” Nola said. “That’s big. We were able to get some chase and make good pitches in the zone.”