LOS ANGELES — If Game 1 of the National League Division Series showed us anything, it’s that the Padres aren’t going down without a fight. The Dodgers used every advantage at their disposal to outlast San Diego 5-3 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Perks earned by the Dodgers for finishing with the best record in baseball included a bye into the NLDS, and home field advantage in any series they play. It also afforded Los Angeles the ability to line up its pitching as they saw fit, while the Padres had to use their top three starters to win a wild card series in New York.
Any thoughts of rust after five days off between games dissipated in the first three innings.
“As far as the days off, it was a reward,” manager Dave Roberts said before Game 1. “I think we got the most out of the time off.”
No matchup in the series was as lopsided as the series opener, with Julio Urías going up against Mike Clevinger, San Diego’s fourth starter. The Dodgers did gain an advantage here, but not by as much as they might have hoped.
Clevinger on Tuesday made his fourth start against the Dodgers in the last 10 weeks, and all of them have pretty much gone the same way, with the right-hander allowing at least four runs each time.
Trea Turner homered in the first inning to get things started, then Will Smith doubled with two outs and scored on a Max Muncy single. Things got dicier for Clevinger after that, with two runners on and two outs, but Trent Grisham tracked down Gavin Lux’s liner to limit the Dodgers’ tally to two runs.
In the third inning it was more of the same, with another Smith double knocking in Turner, who also doubled to open the frame. With another two-on, two-out situation, Clevinger again faced Lux, but was not able to use him as an escape hatch this time. Lux hit a double down the right field line, giving the Dodgers their fourth run and ending Clevinger’s night.
At 2⅔ innings, Game 1 was the shortest of Clevinger’s 23 starts this season.
With a 5-0 lead, this one looked like a blowout, like a matchup between teams with a 22-win difference in their records. But it was anything but.
Urías was cruising in his first career Game 1 start, allowing only one hit through the first four innings to go with six strikeouts. But three straight hits to open the fifth, including a home run by Wil Myers, plated three runs, the first time since July 16 Urías allowed more than one run in an inning.
The stressful 23-pitch frame ended the night for Urías after five innings, turning the ball over to the bullpen for the final 12 outs.
Mix and match
Evan Phillips was the first Dodger out of the bullpen, tasked with facing the heart of the Padres order in the sixth. He walked Juan Soto and Manny Machado dribbled a ball about 60 feet up the third base line for a single, and suddenly trouble loomed. But after a strikeout, Myers smoked another ball, this one 105 mph off the bat, somehow turned into a double play by a nifty play by Lux and Trea Turner.
The softest hit in the inning went for a single, and the loudest smash led to two outs. Postseason baseball continues to tie stomachs into knots whether you like it or not.
“For me, that was the play of the game,” Dave Roberts said of the double play.
Normally, getting into a team’s bullpen eight outs into a best-of-five series is a good thing, and perhaps some of the seeds sown on Tuesday can be reaped later. But in Game 1, the Padres bullpen kept San Diego in it, holding the Dodgers hitless for 17 at-bats, with only two walks.
The Los Angeles bullpen did their part, too. After the Phillips hiccup and escape, Alex Vesia recorded five outs, including three strikeouts, and got the Dodgers through Soto in the eighth. In came Brusdar Graterol to face Machado, who flew out into the wind in left field on the first pitch to end the inning.
Chris Martin, one of seven different Dodgers pitchers to earn a save since September 1, allowed a two-out single to Jake Cronenworth in the ninth but otherwise worked around it for his first career postseason save.
The Padres had the tying run at the plate or on base in three of the final four innings, but this one went the Dodgers’ way for the 15th time in 20 games against San Diego this season.
NLDS Game 1 particulars
Home runs: Trea Turner (1); Wil Myers (1)
WP — Julio Urías (1-0): 5 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 6 strikeouts
LP — Mike Clevinger (0-1): 2⅔ IP, 6 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
Sv — Chris Martin (1): 1 IP, 1 hit
Game 2 of the NLDS on Wednesday night starts an hour earlier than Game 1 (5:37 p.m., FS1), with Clayton Kershaw making his 31st career postseason start. Yu Darvish starts for the Padres.