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With Mookie Betts’ return near, Dodgers set off early fireworks to beat Padres again

It wasn’t Yu Darvish’s worst outing atop the Dodger Stadium mound.

But as the right-hander got rocked Saturday afternoon by his old team, it sure looked similar to a certain November night in 2017.

In the first inning of their 7-2 win over the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers tattooed three home runs against Darvish.

Freddie Freeman launched a missile to right. Will Smith lifted a moon shot to center. Justin Turner stung a line drive to left.

Each one was met by a louder roar from the crowd of 47,061 and an increasingly enthusiastic reception in the dugout.

Will Smith rounds the bases in the first inning after he followed Freddie Freeman’s homer with a blast. The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 15 against the Padres.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“Guys on the bench were waiting to see someone do something offensively,” manager Dave Roberts said. “There was that energy, that mindset of, ‘I want to be the next guy to do something, to help the ballclub.’ ”

The sequence summoned flashbacks to the 2017 World Series, when Darvish was ambushed early in the Dodgers’ Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros.

Only this time, it was the Padres (46-34) on the receiving end of a sudden beatdown and the Dodgers (49-28) cruising to their fourth straight win overall and 14th in their last 15 against the Padres.

After the first-inning outburst, the Dodgers quickly added to their lead to put the game out of reach.

The Dodgers' Justin Turner and Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish watch Turner's first-inning homer July 2, 2022.

Justin Turner and Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish watch the flight of Turner’s homer — the last of three in a span of four batters for the Dodgers in the first inning.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

With two outs in the second, Padres right fielder José Azocar dropped a line drive, allowing Gavin Lux to reach second base with a double. He scored on Trea Turner’s single in the next at-bat.

Again with two outs in the third, Jake Lamb dumped an RBI double into left just beyond a diving effort by Jurickson Profar. The hit made the score 5-0.

After Tyler Anderson completed a 6⅓-inning, one-run start, the Dodgers tacked on a couple of late insurance runs in the seventh with a pair of sacrifice flies.

“The capability of this lineup is pretty special,” Justin Turner said.

The Dodgers’ offense could soon be getting a boost too.

After the game, Roberts said Mookie Betts will likely return from the injured list Sunday and play right field after Betts felt good following a live batting practice session Saturday afternoon.

Out since June 15 because of a cracked rib, Betts was initially planning to return at second base to avoid long throws that he said still gave him some discomfort despite posing no threat of further injury.

However, after Chris Taylor left Saturday’s game early because of a left foot contusion — Roberts said an X-ray on Taylor’s foot was negative, but he isn’t expected to play Sunday — the Dodgers now plan to put Betts back in his customary corner outfield spot.

“I feel good,” Betts said. “I’m ready to get back out there.”

Where Betts will be in the batting order is another question.

Despite hitting Betts leadoff in all 59 of his starts this season, Roberts said he is still deciding whether he will return Betts to the top spot or keep Trea Turner there.

In Betts’ absence, Turner entered Sunday hitting .339 with an .891 on-base-plus-slugging percentage since sliding into the leadoff role.

“I’m going to have a conversation with Mookie to make sure that we’re on the same page,” Roberts said. “Obviously Trea has been thriving in the leadoff spot. But I don’t know, we’re gonna keep having those conversations.”

Wherever he returns, Betts will rejoin a Dodgers team that has started to rediscover its stride.

Saturday’s victory was the Dodgers’ 12th in their last 17. They extended their division lead over the second-place Padres to 4½ games, their largest of the season.

“Obviously, you want to play good against division opponents, especially the team that was right behind you,” Freeman said. “No one in here is looking at standings, it’s way too early for that. But … it’s just nice to put together this series of work.”

Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson pitches during the fourth inning July 2, 2022.

Dodgers left-hander Tyler Anderson gave up one run in 6⅓ innings innings and improved to 9-1 this season.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

This weekend has been as much about dominant starting pitching as it has explosive offense.

Anderson spun the Dodgers’ latest gem Saturday, lowering his season ERA to 3.09 while becoming the third consecutive Dodgers starter to give up only one run against the Padres’ slumping lineup.

“As a rotation, you want to keep the ball rolling,” Anderson said. “You want to take the ball and try to keep up with the guy the day before.”

Darvish, who had pitched well in three previous outings at Dodger Stadium the last three years since leaving the team, eventually found his own groove, getting through six total innings without giving up another run.

All that early damage, however, proved to be more than decisive.

Once again, he suffered a loss at Dodger Stadium.

This time, the hosts were happy to be on the other side.



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