The Padres made it a point to say they needed to win Game 2 to have a chance in the Division Series against the Dodgers and the bullpen delivered again Wednesday to make it happen.
The Friars evened the series 1-1 with their gloves and two clutch efforts out of the ‘pen, by Robert Suarez and closer Josh Hader. With the 5-3 win in L.A., the series now shifts to San Diego for the first local playoff games since 2006.
“(The bullpen’s) been great in this post season,” Jurickson Profar, who had the game-winning hit, told Bally Sports San Diego. “They did it in New York and they did it again tonight.”
The teams had two of their best on the mound to open the game, but neither starter was crisp.
Yu Darvish, 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA in the regular season, was 1-2 with a 2.52 ERA in four appearances against L.A.
He opened the postseason hot by limiting the New York Mets to one run and six hits over seven innings in a 7-1 victory in Game 1 of one of the NL wild-card series.
Kershaw, 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA this season, was 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts against the Padres.
Each side tagged the starter with a two-out, first-inning home run – Manny Machado in the Padres’ half and Freddie Freeman in the Dodgers’ – though Trent Grisham had the ball in his sights he couldn’t leap high enough as it sailed over the centerfield fence.
Dodger Max Muncy broke the 1-1 tie the next inning with his own solo blast to right. The Padres overtook L.A. in the third though. After singles from Ha-Seong Kim and Juan Soto, Machado shot a drive down the third-base line to score Kim.
Jake Cronenworth hung in during a long at-bat against Kershaw, eventually sending a grounder to the right side. Freeman took the ball to the bag for the out as Soto crossed the plate for a 3-2 lead.
But Trea Turner promptly tied the game again on the Dodgers third homer off Darvish, again with nobody on base.
A pair of gems in the fifth, thanks to Austin Nola’s arm and Machado’s glove, set off a defensive clinic – marred by a crucial miscue – at the game’s mid-point.
Nola erased the speedy Betts, walked by Darvish, attempting to steal – Manager Bob Melvin called it his “biggest throw of the year” – while Machado snagged a ball to his left to throw out an even speedier Turner.
But in the sixth, when the Padres threatened against reliever Brusdar Graterol, Turner bobbled a possible double-play ball off the bat of Wil Myers.
That gave Profar an RBI opportunity, which he cashed in with a single past a diving Gavin Lux to score Cronenworth. Grisham, though, attempted to drop a bunt on the Dodgers and Graterol made a barehanded grab to throw Myers out at the plate. Cody Bellinger topped it off by running and twisting to track down a Nola drive to center to end the inning.
The Padres protected the 4-3 lead in the bottom of the inning, after Will Smith and Muncy reached on singles, putting an end to Darvish’s night. Robert Suarez continued the bullpen’s hot streak, striking out Justin Turner and drawing a sharp grounder from Lux. Cronenworth grabbed it, and with Kim’s help, turned the inning-ending double play.
“That was the play of the game,” Melvin said.
He denied the Dodgers again in the seventh, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam. Cronenworth rewarded the effort by giving the Padres a cushion in the eighth, with a long homer to right.
When the Dodgers put two on in the bottom of the inning, Hader came in to attempt a four-out save. He retired Austin Barnes to close the eighth, before confronting another threat in the ninth as Freddie Freeman nearly hit another solo homer for the Dodgers.
It bounced off the top of the wall though for a two-out double, and Smith came up as the tying run. The Dodgers would leave their 10th man of the night on base, however, as Smith sent a fly ball to deep right that Soto easily corralled for the win.
Melvin noted the drama in the “fun win.”
“We take a lead, all of a sudden they came right back. Then with two out, nobody on in the ninth, all of a sudden you’re one pitch away from being in trouble again,” Melvin said. “It’s probably as back and forth a game as you’re going to see, a lot of drama to it.”
After an off-day Thursday, the action shifts to Petco Park at 5:30 p.m. Friday when Blake Snell gets the start in Game 3. The Dodgers will counter with Tony Gonsolin.
– City News Service contributed to this report.