While the Los Angeles Dodgers are regular participants in postseason baseball, there was something unusual about becoming the first team in the pandemic-shortened season to clinch a berth in the expanded playoffs.
“It’s different, I guess. I just found that out five minutes ago," manager Dave Roberts said in his video news conference after the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 7-5 to take two of three in a matchup of the NL's two top teams.
The Dodgers opened a 3 1/2-game lead in their quest for an eighth straight NL West title by beating the Padres for the second straight day. Dustin May threw 5 1/3 gutty innings out of the bullpen, AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor homered and Will Smith drove in three runs.
San Diego, quieted by Dodgers pitching a second straight game even as it heads for its first playoff berth since winning the division in 2006, has lost two straight for the first time since mid-August.
“Today we just got beat in almost all areas, facets of the game," rookie manager Jayce Tingler said. “We didn’t play as clean as we have been defensively. Their guys over there on the mound, they’ve done a good job pitching, especially the past two days. It was nice to scrap and crawl and fight back in it, but at the end of the day we got into too big a hole to overcome.”
May, who had been scheduled to start before Roberts decided to go with a bullpen day, was the Dodgers' third pitcher of the game. He went 5 1/3 innings and was in control until Jurickson Profar homered to right field with two outs in the seventh to pull the Padres to 7-3. Mitch Moreland reached on an error by second baseman Gavin Lux opening the inning.
After Profar’s homer, May struck out Trent Grisham and blew off some steam by yelling a few profanities that could be heard around empty Petco Park. Grisham angered the Dodgers by briefly posing at the plate after homering off Clayton Kershaw in the Padres' 7-2 win Monday night.
May allowed Manny Machado’s solo homer with one out in the eighth, his 14th, and was lifted by Roberts.
San Diego used nine pitchers.
Pollock homered past the palm trees to the right of the batter’s eye in straightaway center field off rookie Adrian Morejon (2-1) with two outs in the second. It was his 11th. Taylor greeted Garrett Richards with a leadoff shot into the second deck in left -center leading off the sixth, his sixth, for a 7-1 lead.
San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., who had been considered the NL MVP front-runner recently, went 0 for 4 to extend his slump to 2 for 27 over eight games. His average has dropped from .314 to .281.
“I don’t think he’s tired," Tingler said. "I think last night he missed a homer by two or three feet, I thought he squared three balls up today. Unfortunately, they were right into the lanes they were playing. Just going through a little pocket, maybe trying to do too much at times. But I think he’s in position to get extremely hot for us down the stretch.”