Dodgers and Padres is the series that just keeps giving. Saturday night at Petco Park saw a pitching duel that was every bit as good as advertised. We knew this one was Clayton Kershaw vs. Yu Darvish, but perhaps didn’t realize how literally that would decide the outcome, a 2-0 Dodgers triumph that marked the eighth straight win for Los Angeles.
Darvish was sparkling from the jump, retiring his first 14 batters faced. With two outs in the fifth, he lost the perfect game by hitting Zach McKinstry on the foot with a pitch, then Luke Raley broke up the no-hitter with a single to center. Austin Barnes drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases. For Kershaw.
But rather than provide an escape hatch for his mound counterpart, Kershaw fouled off three pitches in an eight-pitch battle, culminating in a bases-loaded walk for the game’s first run.
“Just trying to be annoying, really. I wasn’t going to get a hit off of him,” Kershaw said. “He’s got too good of stuff, so it’s just trying to be a nuisance as best you can.”
The Dodgers’ most recent bases-loaded walk by a pitcher also intimately involved Darvish, who was the batter in Game 3 of the 2017 NLCS.
Both pitchers allowed just four batters to reach base. All for Darvish came in the fifth inning, and he lasted seven. Kershaw gave up only two singles and two walks in his six innings, his 98th and final pitch inducing a perfectly-placed Wil Myers ground ball double play, eliciting a smile from Kershaw as he walked off the mound with his 18th consecutive scoreless inning.
CT3 FOR TWO. pic.twitter.com/CvsoWQeep6— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 18, 2021
While Kershaw and Darvish were the main characters in this one, neither one owned home plate quite like umpire Tom Hallion, whose animated strikeout call got a workout on Saturday, confounding both sides equally and often.
But the most contentious moment of Saturday — and maybe of the whole series that’s been full of them — came in the fourth inning, when Kershaw appeared to strike out Jurickson Profar looking to end the frame. But after a review, Profar was awarded first base for catcher’s interference because his late check swing hit Austin Barnes’ glove.
After the call was overturned, Kershaw pointed at and yelled to Profar, “That’s a bullshit swing,” saying it twice. Profar responded with, “Shut the fuck up,” giving us our second Dodgers-Padres, let’s say argument of the series.
Clayton Kershaw and Jurickson Profar yell at each other. pic.twitter.com/2zHIjMP4Zg— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) April 18, 2021
After the game, Kershaw said he took issue with Profar swinging late and directly into the catcher’s glove.
“I think Barnsey could have been seriously injured on that play,” Kershaw said. “I’m not saying it was intentional, but that was not a big league swing right there. I asked the umpire if I can just hit the catcher’s glove every time. I’ve got a much better chance to do that than hitting the ball.”
There was a lot of hype entering this series, and rightfully so with arguably the two best teams in the National League facing off (perhaps with apologies to the Braves). But the matchup in San Diego has more than lived up to the advanced billing, giving us two close, thrilling games between two excellent teams.
This series has seemingly had everything, and part of the weirdness is that for a stretch of over eight innings from Friday to Saturday, the only runs scored by either team were driven in by pitchers David Price and Kershaw. Sure, why not?
Justin Turner ended that streak with some insurance in the form of a ninth-inning home run, the fifth of the best April of his career. Turner this season is hitting .426/.467/.815, and is tied atop the National League with 16 runs batted in, matching Ronald Acuña Jr.
With Kenley Jansen and Corey Knebel unavailable on Saturday, the final nine outs for the Dodgers came down to Jimmy Nelson (for the seventh), Blake Treinen (four outs in the eighth and ninth), then Victor Gonzalez for the final two outs in the ninth. Gonzalez is the fourth Dodgers pitcher to record a save this season, and the third different pitcher to do so in the last four days.
But of course, this series had to have a fitting ending, which was provided by Mookie Betts, with a diving catch in center field with two tying runs on base. “A walk-off catch,” as called by Joe Davis on SportsNet LA. Wow
For Gonzalez, who saved two games with Double-A Tulsa in 2018, it was his first major league save.
With the win, the Dodgers are 13-2 for the second time in franchise history, along with the 1955 Brooklyn club that started 22-2.
Home run: Justin Turner (5)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (3-1): 6 IP, 2 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
LP — Yu Darvish (1-1): 7 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Sv — Victor Gonzalez (1): ⅔ IP, 1 walk
After Saturday’s excellent pitching matchup featured only one Cy Young Award winner (though Darvish did finish second twice), Sunday (1:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network) has two former Cy Young winners with Trevor Bauer against Blake Snell, each making their fourth start with their new team.