SAN DIEGO — Did they leave anything for the second act?
With early-aughts ThunderStix apparently teleported in for the occasion, Friday’s first meeting between the Dodgers and their newly-minted NL West challengers did a better job of living up to Justin Turner’s spring prediction of 19 regular-season World Series games than down to the ho-hum, all-business attitude some Dodgers put on this week.
The San Diego Padres came from behind with two runs in the eighth inning off Corey Knebel then did it again with a run in the ninth, down to their last strike against Kenley Jansen.
But Corey Seager finally decided things in the 12th inning, leading off with a two-run home run – an unholy phrase birthed by baseball’s new extra-innings rule – that sparked a five-run inning and gave the Dodgers an 11-6 victory over the Padres late Friday night at Petco Park.
The first of seven meetings over 10 days (and 19 during the regular season) between the two teams expected to vie for National League supremacy, it was quite an opening act for the season-long drama ahead. The last inning featured Joe Musgrove – feted in a pre-game ceremony for throwing the first no-hitter in Padres history earlier this week – playing left field for the Padres and David Price collecting the second RBI of his 13-year career and first win with the Dodgers.
The game even featured the first staredown of the rivalry when Dennis Santana hit Jorge Mateo with a pitch in the 10th inning – a duo not even on the board when predicting who would set off the first benches-clearing confrontation in this matchup.
But the stars on both sides had their say as well.
The Padres activated their star shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr., from the Injured List for the series, reportedly advising him about the “danger points” and “high-risk plays” they hoped he would avoid – things like diving for balls – so he wouldn’t re-injure the shoulder he partially dislocated just 11 days ago.
He didn’t heed their advice.
With runners on first and third and two outs in the sixth inning, Tatis made a diving stop of Chris Taylor’s ground ball into the hole, rolled over and tried to throw to second base for an inning-ending forceout that would have preserved a one-run Padres’ lead – built on a Tatis home run.
His throw was wide of the base and scuttled off into right field as two Dodger runs scored. The error led to a three-run boondoggle and a two-run lead for the Dodgers to protect over the final three innings.
It turned into a one-run lead when the Padres scored on a throwing error by Zach McKinstry in the seventh, then a two-run lead again when McKinstry’s double over right fielder Wil Myers’ head drove in a run in the top of the eighth.
Knebel came in to protect that lead in the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Manny Machado. It was the first hit off Knebel this season (by the 18th batter he faced).
Two batters later, Myers’ single was the second then Jurickson Profar’s double down the left field line was the third. Two runs scored on the double, tying the game.
Jansen came in and put out the fire with two runners on then the Dodgers gave him a new lead to protect. Mookie Betts led off the ninth with a single, went to second when Seager dribbled a ground out in front of home plate and scored when Turner lashed a single through the infield.
But Jansen had to go through the teeth of the Padres’ order to close it out in the bottom of the ninth. He didn’t quite make it. He walked Machado with two outs. Machado stole second to get into scoring position then advanced to third on a pitch in the dirt. Down to his last strike, Eric Hosmer drove a ground ball single into center field to tie the score again.
Santana loaded the bases in the 10th but froze Tatis on a called third strike to escape. In the 11th, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned to Thursday night’s closer, Price, who had pitched on consecutive days just twice before in his career. He went the final two innings, getting the win when the Dodgers broke the game open in the 12th on Seager’s home run, RBI singles by McKinstry and Luke Raley – and a sacrifice fly by Price.
More to come on this story.