LOS ANGELES – In advance of their series against the bulked-up San Diego Padres this week, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts laughed off the idea that his team would be looking to “send a message” about the rightful order of things in the National League West.
Then they went out and sent a message.
The Dodgers put the Soto-fied Padres in their place – a distant second – with a two-hit, 4-0 shutout Sunday afternoon, completing a three-game sweep by a combined score of 20-4.
“I think you guys knew going into this series, it was just another series for us,” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman who drove in two runs with a pair of two-out RBI singles. “Obviously this is my first year here. Rivalries and stuff, I’m getting used to them. But for me, I just look at the schedule and play the schedule. And I think that’s what we had as our mindset going into this series and we treated it as any other series and we came out here and played the baseball we’ve been playing for two months now.
“Whoever we’re playing, we’re gonna play our game of baseball. And our game of baseball is pretty good.”
The Padres know that all too well.
During Sunday’s broadcast on ESPN, Padres owner and team chairman Peter Seidler referred to the Dodgers as “the dragon up the freeway that we’re trying to slay.”
That dragon is still breathing fire, winning 17 of the past 18 games and 21 of the past 23 against NL West opponents.
The Dodgers have dominated the upstart Padres to the tune of a 55-18 scoring advantage while winning eight of 10 head-to-head meetings. The two SoCal neighbors will play nine more times in September. But that month will mean much more to the Padres than the Dodgers.
Sunday’s win extended the Dodgers’ latest winning streak to eight games – all against National League West opponents – and swelled their lead in the division to 15 ½ games, the largest lead the Dodgers have had since the end of the 2019 season when they won the West by 21 games.
“I think when you see what we’ve got in this clubhouse you don’t expect this – but you kind of do,” said Cody Bellinger who had three hits including two home runs. “We’re a good team. We’ve got a bunch of good players.”
One that went largely unmentioned on that list when the season started was Tyler Anderson. The journeyman left-hander signed a one-year, $8 million contract as a depth piece on the Dodgers’ pitching staff.
All he’s done is go 13-1 with a 2.72 ERA after domating the Padres for seven innings Sunday. Anderson allowed just a pair of singles – one on a hard ground ball off third baseman Max Muncy’s hip. For all their trade-deadline flexing, the Padres didn’t get a runner past first base in Sunday’s game.
“I don’t think anyone could have kind of forecasted this,” Roberts said of Anderson’s season. “But to his credit, he’s worked his tail off to be a top-end pitcher, and he’s a winner. He’s a winner and every time he goes out there and takes the mound we expect to win a baseball game.
“He’s just been invaluable.”
He had some help. Starting in left field for the first time since returning from his foot injury, Chris Taylor made a pair of outstanding plays. In the third, he played the carom off the side wall to hold Ha-Seong Kim to a single. Then in the sixth, he made a long run to snare Aaron Nola’s drive on the warning track in the left-field corner.
Meanwhile, the stirrings in the second half of the Dodgers’ lineup got a little louder. Both Muncy and Bellinger had multi-hit games with Bellinger hitting two home runs out of the ninth spot in the lineup.
In the third inning, he drove a Yu Darvish fastball over the wall in left-center field wall for a solo home run. Then in the seventh — with a single in between — Bellinger sent a 100-mph fastball from Padres reliever Luis Garcia on the same trajectory for a second solo home run.
It was Bellinger’s first multi-homer game since April 24 in San Diego. According to ESPN Stats and Info, he is the first Dodger player to have more than one multi-homer game against the Padres in the same season.
“Really just finding the pitch I want to hit and putting my correct swing on the ball,” Bellinger said. “Obviously that’s pretty simple but that’s the key. I haven’t had much success off Darvish in the past (0 for 10 before Sunday) so I really kept it simple today and didn’t try to do too much.”