Friday began the most important month for the San Diego Padres in 2022, as the stretch run for this year’s playoffs are in full swing. The Padres entered with a three game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the final wild card spot, while also chasing the Philadelphia Phillies to move up into the second slot by half a game.
After a fairly easy month of August in terms of competition, where the Padres finished 16-13 despite several bumps in the road, September is going to be much harder for San Diego. They enter with the third hardest strength of schedule remaining, including three series against baseballs best team – the first of which kicked off yesterday in Los Angeles.
Bob Melvin trotted out Yu Darvish, his staff ace, in the series’ opener, while Dave Roberts and the Dodgers opposed with Dustin May, who may have some of the nastiest stuff in the league.
Darvish was his usual dominant self and, for the 18th consecutive start, pitched into the sixth inning. He held the game’s most potent offensive unit to two hits through seven innings of work, punching out nine and failing to allow a run. Darvish also eclipsed the 3,000 car3er strikeout mark as a professional, punching out 1,753 batters over his big league career as well as an additional 1,250 in Japan. Now, Darvish owns a 3.26 ERA on the season over 162 2/3 innings and has anchored this staff as a result.
The Padres did something yesterday we haven’t seen them do against anyone, yet alone the Dodgers, but not before doing something we’ve seen them do too much. Juan Soto and Manny Machado drew walks in the first inning, giving San Diego runners in scoring position yet again with less than two outs. The Padres failed to capitalize, a common occurrence this year, and squandered away an opportunity against a team that isn’t very forgiving.
What they did do, however, is clobber one of the game’s nastiest arms in the third inning. It started yet again by Soto drawing a walk, his league-leading 115th of the season, and brought Manny Machado up to the plate. Machado took a pitch, then jumped all over a 98 mph heater from May, depositing it 410 feet into the bleachers. The Dodgers fans boo’d Machado as he circled the bases, which I still haven’t figured out why since he slashed .273/.338/.497 with a 122 OPS+ in 267 at-bats and helped lead them to the World Series, and the Padres led 2-0. Since Soto’s first game as a Padre on August 3rd, Machado is slashing .364/.412/.673 with a 202 wRC+.
Not content with their lead, the Padres wanted more and they received an extra jolt just a few batters later.
With one out, May pulled off on a backfoot slider and grazed Cronenworth’s left leg, giving the Padres a free baserunner and bringing Brandon Drury to the plate. After a pitch or two, Drury mimicked Machado and crushed one of May’s offerings deep into the left field seats, upping San Diego’s lead to 4-0.
Backing Darvish’s dominance, the Friars knew the potency of this Dodgers’ offense wasn’t likely to stay at bay for long and they did something about it in the sixth inning.
But not before a bit of controversy.
Drury led the inning off and, if you remember, he was the one who clobbered a two-run blast off May earlier in the game. Well, the first pitch of this at-bat was an errant curveball that came up-and-in, hitting Drury in the ear flap and missing his jaw by a few centimeters. He would stay in to finish the inning, but was removed for precautionary reasons afterwards.
Trent Grisham followed up by drawing his second walk of the game and ultimately chasing May from the outing. The Dodgers brought in reliever Heath Hembree, who has been objectively bad this season, and asked him to escape this jam on unscathed.
Hembree delivered for the first two batters, punching out Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola fairly easily. It looked like the Padres were going to do their Houdini special with runners on base and not score in yet another key spot.
Then Jurickson Profar clutched up.
After fouling a few pitches off, Profar elevated a hanging lower-half breaking ball to near perfection, catching it fully with his barrel for a three-run shot to right field. It was his first home run since August 1st and it gave San Diego a 7-0 lead.
Though the Dodgers scored a run in the ninth inning on a Joey Gallo single, the Padres were in complete control of this game from the third inning on. It was exciting to see that in a crucial series against the game’s best team, several key members of this Padres’ squad delivered en route to victory.
+ Yu Darvish: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K, W
+ Jurickson Profar: 2-for-5, 2 H, HR, 3 RBI
+ Manny Machado: 1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB
+ Brandon Drury: 1-for-2, HR, 2 RBI
+ Ha-Seong Kim: 2-for-4
This series continues today at 7:10 PST. Sean Manaea (7-7) toes the slab for San Diego, while Julio Urias (14-7) opposes for Los Angeles.