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Dodgers and Padres have to follow an instant classic

Game 2 was epic. Game 3 is tonight

MLB: NLDS-San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers
“Got my man”
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Good luck topping last night, Dodgers and Padres.

Game 2 of the NLDS had just about everything. A budding rivalry between the longtime lords of the division and the young and talented upstarts who stand with feet firmly planted in the land of contenders.

Clayton Kershaw started near his actual home for the first time, and even though the game wasn’t in his home ballpark he was wearing the home whites while listening to Fun. over the loud speakers before the first pitch.

It featured Mookie Betts at his instinctual best, igniting a double steal with Corey Seager on reliever Drew Pomeranz’s first pitch without getting the steal sign. That set up the two insurance runs the Dodgers desperately needed.

We saw a ninth-inning meltdown by Kenley Jansen that will almost certainly necessitate a change at closer, part of a 49-pitch final frame that saw the Padres pull to within a run before leaving the bases loaded.

It was the type of game that felt less like a victory than survival, but it counts as a win just the same. It will likely be the game people talk about when thinking of this series. You rarely see two such games in a single series. The 2017 World Series had two instant classics, but both were won by the Astros, which stuck in the Dodgers’ craw long before Houston’s cheating scandal rocked the sport.

That Game 2 of the NLDS had a signature play only added to its legend.

Cody Bellinger broke the seal on home runs in the series, hit fourth straight postseason game this year with a hit, continuing a .333/.449/579 stretch in his last 17 games, dating back to mid-September.

Bellinger’s greatest trick was robbing a home run of Fernando Tatis Jr., a budding superstar who is already one of the very best players in the game at age 21. “Great players make great plays in big moments,” manager Dave Roberts said of Bellinger’s catch.

Division Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two
“Only I didn’t say ‘fudge’.”
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The celebration that followed, including Brusdar Graterol’s incredible exuberance at not allowing the go-ahead home run, incited a bit of a shouting match between both teams, but the best kind.

Manny Machado, who earlier threw his bat toward his own dugout after hitting a home run, took exception to Graterol’s glove and hat-throwing display, and both benches exchanged words, but not much else.

It wasn’t followed by throwing at batters or anything like that, just players firing up their own team, and taking exception if anyone dare question it.

It was fun.

This happened on September 14 in San Diego too, with the shoe on the other foot. The Dodgers took exception to Trent Grisham celebrating his home run off Kershaw, but didn’t respond with brutish tactics. They just beat the Padres the next two days, basically putting the division to bed.

The Dodgers have a chance to put the Padres away on Thursday night in Game 3, trying to advance to a fourth NLCS in the last five years.

But let’s exhale first after last night, okay?

Game 3 info

Time: 6:08 p.m. PT

TV: MLB Network (Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, Jon Morosi)