The Dodgers proved to be too good for an understaffed Padres team, and good enough to overcome trying to be too cute by half with their own pitching staff. Los Angeles won 12-3 in Game 3, completing the sweep of the NLDS to remain undefeated this postseason.
To get there, the Dodgers relied on a relentless offense that just kept coming at a Padres pitching staff without its two best starters for all but one inning this postseason. Adrián Morejón started this bullpen game for San Diego, and made it two batters into the third inning. After Morejon came more runs for the Dodgers, who scored five in the inning to take control.
Los Angeles pounded 14 hits in this one, with every starter but Chris Taylor reaching base at least twice. Will Smith had his first five hits this postseason, finally getting rewarded after a string of hard-hit outs. He’s the first Dodger ever with five hits in a postseason game.
Despite not getting a hit until the sixth inning of Game 1, the Dodgers scored 23 runs on 29 hits in the three-game series.
One of those hits was the go-ahead RBI single in the third inning by Justin Turner, his 64th postseason hit to pass Steve Garvey for the Dodgers all-time record. Turner also tops the franchise postseason record book in games, hits, doubles, RBI, walks, and hit by pitches.
The Dodgers scored in every inning from the second through the fifth.
The Padres used 11 pitchers in Game 3, an MLB postseason record, part of a pattern all postseason for them. They were without Dinelson Lamet, and Mike Clevinger was limited to only one inning in his start after aggravating an elbow injury on Tuesday. Five of their six playoff games were bullpen games. They totaled 25 pitching appearances in the series, and 51 for their six postseason games.
San Diego’s reliance on Johnny Wholestaff was born out of necessity.
The Dodgers, possibly the only active playoff team remaining with five effective starting pitchers, were faced with their first non-Buehler/non-Kershaw start of this postseason, and opted for creativity because they could.
Dustin May, a starter who provided two excellent innings in relief of a blister-managed Walker Buehler on Tuesday, was named the starter on Thursday. Manager Dave Roberts admitted he wasn’t sure how long May would pitch in this one.
“It was kind of read and react. I just felt Dustin had one, two, maybe three innings at most,” Roberts said. “It was nothing scripted.”
May was wild in the first inning, but worked around a walk for a scoreless frame. But that was it for the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter this season, relegated to relief and opener duty thus far in the postseason.
Whatever the Dodgers plan was didn’t look so hot in the second when Adam Kolarek allowed a pair of runs, aided by an inexplicable intentional walk (in the second inning!) and when Smith opted not to throw to first base on a potential 1-2-3 double play ball.
The Padres led 2-1 with two outs in the second inning, and the bases were loaded, their best chance to fully get back in this series.
But another of the Dodgers’ excellent starters, Julio Urías, who pitched three scoreless innings last Wednesday in relief of Buehler, entered this game in a tough spot, having to face Fernando Tatis Jr.
But Urías was up to the task, striking out Tatis to leave three, and keep the Dodgers within one. Then Urías got into a groove, retiring his first 10 batters faced before a single, an error, and a balk plated a run in the sixth, with the Dodgers already leading comfortably.
Urías allowed only that lone unearned run in five innings of work, striking out six.
Much has been made of Urías’ early-game struggles this season, allowing 10 runs in his 10 first innings. He’s done well in his two bulk outings, games he didn’t start, and the problem with Urías wasn’t with the first inning, but rather his first inning each time out. Even counting his two bulk outings and one true relief outing, the numbers are striking. Urías has allowed 10 runs in his 13 first innings this season, and 11 runs (10 earned) in 50 innings after that. Remarkable.
The Dodgers were simply too good to let any strategic misfires hurt them too badly.
Think of it this way: the Dodgers are undefeated this postseason, having allowed 11 runs in 45 innings without a single pitch thrown by Tony Gonsolin, who posted a 2.31 ERA this year and led the staff in FIP (2.29) and fWAR (1.8) this season. Roberts said Gonsolin would have started Game 4 against the Padres, had the series lasted that long.
The Dodgers depth is perhaps overstated at times, but it’s also one of their greatest strengths. Especially when they get to use it.
Game 3 particulars
Home runs: none
WP — Julio Urías (2-0): 5 IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
LP — Adrián Morejón (0-1): 2+ IP, 2 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
The Dodgers move on to the NLCS, where they will face the Braves beginning Monday in this very same ballpark in Arlington.