It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't the powerful display of home run hitting that initially brought these two division rivals together for their first ever playoff series, but in the end a statement was made.
The Los Angeles Dodgers didn't record a hit for the first five innings, but thanks to 10 walks, a wild pitch, and an error, they defeated the San Diego Padres, 5-1, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
After swiftly dispatching of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Round, the Dodgers were revamped and reloaded for the rival Padres in Game 1.
Their ace Walker Buehler was back on the mound, battling not just the Padres' hitters, but also a blister on his right-index finger that has given him discomfort throughout the season.
For the second straight start, Buehler struggled with his command, issuing an uncommon four walks, one of which came back to bite him.
"The ball was coming out of my hand well, I just missed a lot with it," said Buehler. "Everything looks like a strike from the mound. Sometimes you miss a bunch in the same spot and you don't know why.:
Buehler issued a one-out walk to Wil Myers in the fourth inning, and the Padres' right-fielder stole second one batter later.
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Throughout the first three innings, Buehler danced and darted his way out of damage, even escaping a bases loaded jam in the second inning. However, he wasn't able to escape the fourth after Austin Nola hit an RBI single to left field that scored Myers, giving San Diego an early 1-0 lead.
"That felt like Atlanta to me and I'm sure it did to everyone else watching the game," said Buehler of the jam in the second inning that was reminiscent of his Game 3 start in the 2018 NLDS in which he walked the bases loaded and then surrendered a grand slam to Ronald Acuña Jr. that turned out to be the difference in the game. "Moments will speed up and things like that. I've been there and failed before and learned from that. I made some pitches and was able to get out of it."
San Diego ace Mike Clevinger, who was acquired from the Cleveland Indians at the Aug. 31 trade deadline, did not appear in the Wild Card series against the St. Louis Cardinals because of soreness in his right bicep.
After throwing just one inning in the last three weeks, Clevinger was added to the NLDS roster and made the start in Game 1. He looked good in the first inning, but after a long layover between innings, he made just two pitches in the second inning before leaving the game with tightness in the same bicep. Despite the pain starting in the bicep, the issue with Clevinger's throwing arm is actually in his elbow.
"It feels like a knocking on the back of my elbow, like my bones are hitting together at the back of my elbow," said Clevinger of the reoccurring sensation he's felt over the last few weeks. "I'm not giving up. This is what you play for."
Including Clevinger, the Padres used nine pitchers over the course of the game. One of those pitchers was 20-year-old left-hander Ryan Weathers, who despite never pitching higher than Double-AA in the minor leagues, became the second pitcher in as many days to make his MLB debut in a postseason game.
Weathers threw 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, but the Padres recipe of using a revolving door of relievers to try and beat the Dodgers eventually caught up with them in the fifth and sixth innings.
Garret Richard walked two batters in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Los Angeles tied the game on an error by Jake Cronenworth that Eric Hosmer couldn't handle at first base, allowing the tying run to score without the Dodgers recording a hit.
"This obviously wasn't how we wanted to hit, but we grinded and came out on top," said Cody Bellinger whose ground ball led to the error. "I just busted my tail down the line trying to make anything happen."
Things changed in the bottom of the fifth inning when Mookie Betts got the Dodgers first hit of the game with a double down the left field line.
Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Bellinger all followed with hits of their own and thanks to some more charity on the part of the Padres, the Dodgers rallied for a four-run sixth inning and a 5-1 lead.
"Once we got that first run, it settled us in a little bit," said Turner. "We didn't get a lot of hits early, but we took great at-bats and got a lot of walks tonight."
Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts knew that if his team continued to put together good at-bats, that their patience would definitely be rewarded. The Dodgers ten walks taken in the game, matched the Atlanta Braves in 1997 for the most in a nine-inning NLDS game in baseball history.
"Obviously they exhausted a lot of arms tonight. They kept us at bay for a long time," said Roberts. "I believed that if we continued to do put together a plan and have good at-bats, we'd break out."
And break out they did in a historic fashion. According to STATS, the Dodgers became just the second team in MLB postseason history to be no-hit through at least five innings and then have four or more hits in an inning. Their four-run margin of victory was also the largest by a team that was no-hit through five or more innings since the Cincinnati Reds in 1976.
"We lost the battle of the strike zone on both sides," said Padres' manager Jayce Tingler who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the fifth inning. "We know they're a disciplined team and they didn't chase. At the same time we had some chances offensively, and we couldn't capitalize."
The Padres couldn't capitalize thanks to a superhuman effort by the Dodgers bullpen. Dustin May, Victor Gonzalez, Blake Treinen, and Kenley Jansen obliterated Padres hitters throughout the night, throwing five scoreless innings of relief allowing just one hit over that span.
"It's hard to fathom what they did to come out and shut them down like that," said Buehler of the bullpen's effort. "It's a testament to what we do here and I have a lot of pride just being a part of this."
For fans that don't know, both teams played at a neutral site at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas because of MLB's COVID-19 protocols for the postseason.
Ironically, it was on this very field that the seasons for both the Dodgers and Padres took off just over a month ago.
After defeating AL Cy Young Award candidate Lance Lynn on Aug. 29, the Dodgers won six straight and build an insurmountable lead in the NL West.
Meanwhile, San Diego began a record streak of grand slams in four consecutive games at Globe Life Field on Aug 17, that propelled the Padres to seven straight wins, pushing them to their first postseason appearance since 2006.
Despite the Padres power surge in those games, the new billion dollar stadium is quite possibly the largest ballpark in baseball, and ranked last in home runs hit, averaging just 0.5 homers per game.
On Tuesday night, in Game 1, both teams thought they had hit homers that ordinarily would have gone out of every other stadium in the league, but at Globe Life Field, the ball simply did not carry and died on the warning track.
"We hit a couple balls that are probably homers at Dodger Stadium," said Turrner after the game. "It's not about hitting home runs though, it's about taking good at-bats and hitting balls hard."
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is on Wednesday night at 6:08PM PT.