Clutch pitching and timely hitting came by the way of the San Diego Padres, who tied their NLDS series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at one a piece with a 5-3 victory on Wednesday night.
The long ball was a theme in this game early on, but the Padres benefited from it the most in the end. It was none other than their team – and potential National League – MVP Manny Machado quickly getting them on the board with a line shot just inside the left field foul pole off Dodgers legend Clayton Kershaw to make it 1-0.
Later in the game, after a couple Dodgers threats to retake the lead, Jake Cronenworth smashed a majestic shot off Blake Treinen to right field to put the Padres up 5-3, giving them the right amount of cushion.
But before that, it was a back-and-forth game between these NL West rivals. Freddie Freeman hit his first postseason home run as a Dodger right after Machado, as the expected pitcher duel between Kershaw and Yu Darvish didn’t really pan out the way some may have thought. That made it a 1-1 game in the bottom of the first.
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Then, it was Max Muncy taking Darvish deep to right center field to give the Dodgers the lead.
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Another run would come off the bat of Machado in the top of the third inning, followed by Cronenworth’s first RBI of the game to take a 3-2 lead. The Dodgers would tie things up immediately, with Trea Turner once again flexing his muscle after hitting a homer the night before.
But with all these homers early on, it came down to clutch pitching late in the game that set the Padres apart. Right-hander Robert Suarez stepped up in the biggest way to allow his team to hold on to their lead and head to the bus down to San Diego with a win under their belts.
The Padres took the lead, 4-3, in the top of the sixth but the Dodgers quickly found runners on base in the bottom frame. Will Smith and Muncy both hit singles, leaving runners on the corners with nobody out. Given the Dodgers’ potency at the dish, it seemed like a tie game would be a sigh of relief for San Diego.
Instead, Suarez was put in the game to relieve Darvish and went to work. He got Justin Turner to strikeout and then Gavin Lux grounded into a double play to avoid the jam.
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In the bottom of the seventh inning, Suarez put himself in his own predicament with runners on second and third with one out. But again, he didn’t deter from his objective, as he kept the 4-3 lead intact.
Turner would ground out, and after intentionally walking Freddie Freeman, he got Smith to lineout to end the inning.
There was also some flashing leather for the Dodgers, as things could’ve gotten much worse. Brusdar Graterol gave up the lead in the top of the seventh, but on a squeeze play, he made a bare-handed grab and quickly threw to home to nail Wil Myers trying to score. The next batter was Trent Grisham and he smacked a ball to dead center field, but Cody Bellinger tracked it all the way and made a nice leaping grab.
In the end, though, the Padres’ bullpen didn’t have to go through those tough moments.
Nick Martinez got the first two outs of the eighth inning before Josh Hader was brought in to close things in a four-out save opportunity, the first one since 2020. And he did just that, shutting things down despite a Freeman double in the bottom of the ninth.
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Game 3 between these two NL powerhouses will be played at Petco Park in San Diego on Friday at 8:37 p.m. ET. It will be the first Padres home postseason game in 16 years.