SAN DIEGO — In April there isn’t a purple, white and blue bunting hanging anyplace fairly but, however you would have fooled San Diego’s most enthusiastic baseball followers over the weekend. They streamed into the Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park clothed in brown and mustard, restricted solely by their imaginations.
Baseball’s most anticipated rivalry in 2021 — the dominating, blue-blooded Los Angeles Dodgers and the class-climbing, blue-collar San Diego Padres — started with a 12-inning bang on Friday; continued with a thriller on Saturday that culminated in a diving, totally prolonged, game-saving catch in heart discipline by the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts; and performed by way of the Padres’ stirring three-run eighth to keep away from a sweep on Sunday.
The golf equipment transfer north to Dodger Stadium for 4 extra video games starting on Thursday and, if the remainder of their 16 video games play out because the weekend’s did, it will be some form of enjoyable.
“We’re going to get 19 World Sequence video games this 12 months,” the Dodgers star Justin Turner mentioned enthusiastically this spring. The taut video games over the weekend in San Diego made him look prophetic.
“They undoubtedly really feel like they’re postseason video games, that kind of ambiance,” mentioned Eric Hosmer, the Padres’ first baseman who helped lead Kansas Metropolis to consecutive World Sequence appearances in 2014 and 2015 (and the title in 2015). His R.B.I. single on Sunday put San Diego forward for good in a 5-2 win.
“I feel it’s no secret that the entire baseball world was locked into this collection,” he mentioned.
The weekend was filled with Cy Younger Award winners (Clayton Kershaw, Blake Snell, Trevor Bauer and David Value) and near-misses (Yu Darvish completed second within the N.L. final summer time and second within the A.L. in 2013). It spotlighted the 2018 A.L. Most Beneficial Participant Award winner (Betts) and the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers within the N.L. M.V.P. voting final summer time (Betts, Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr.). One other M.V.P. winner (Cody Bellinger, N.L. 2019) missed the collection as a result of he’s on the injured checklist.
The Dodgers have gained eight consecutive N.L. West titles and are heavy favorites so as to add a ninth this 12 months. The Padres, now of their 53rd season, have gained a grand whole of 5 division titles — and nil since 2006. However in buying and selling for the starters Snell, Darvish and Joe Musgrove inside a buzzy three-week span over the winter, the Padres closed the hole sufficient that, shortly afterward, the Dodgers struck a three-year, $102 million deal with Bauer.
“Clearly, we’ve observed” Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, mentioned of the Padres’ ascendancy.
Not that Los Angeles desires to maintain speaking about it. Supervisor Dave Roberts downplayed the hype on Friday. “It’s going to be a enjoyable collection, a enjoyable sport,” he mentioned. “I’m not going to make an excessive amount of out of 1 sport, one collection.”
Then got here 12 innings and almost 5 hours of sheer drama within the first sport of the collection. Hosmer knocked in Machado with two strikes and two outs within the ninth to push the sport into further innings. The benches cleared within the 10th inning when Jorge Mateo and Dennis Santana had phrases after the Dodgers pitcher hit Mateo with a pitch.
It was an evening that began with a pregame ceremony honoring the native child, Musgrove, who had thrown the first no-hitter in Padres history every week earlier. Then, in a good looking show of baseball’s unpredictability, it ended with Musgrove taking part in left discipline after Padres Supervisor Jayce Tingler burned by way of his pitchers to the purpose the place he needed to transfer infielder Jake Cronenworth to the mound.
Naturally, Cronenworth, in his first main league pitching look, struck out Betts.
Value, who drove in a run with a sacrifice fly within the 12th, had the bizarre mixture of a victory, 4 strikeouts and an R.B.I. The final Dodgers participant with a line like that in an extra-inning sport was Nap Rucker on July 9, 1915, in response to Stats L.L.C.
Afterward, Roberts, who had been reluctant to make an excessive amount of of 1 sport, or one collection, gushed.
“It was like a playoff sport,” Roberts mentioned. “The gang was nice. I’m simply spent emotionally.”
In fact, you couldn’t blame Roberts for his preliminary hesitancy to legitimize this as a real rivalry. Whereas the Dodgers and Padres have produced a lot leisure through the years, little of it has needed to do with precise title chases. The Padres, born into the N.L. as an growth franchise in 1969, have completed north of .500 in simply 15 seasons. These Southern California neighbors have battled all the way down to the season’s remaining day simply twice in half a century.
“We got here to San Diego with a little bit little bit of a chip on our shoulder concerning Los Angeles,” mentioned Larry Lucchino, who was the Padres’ chief government and president from 1995 to 2001 and performed a key position within the development of Petco Park. “The explanation was the Dodgers form of resented the Padres’ presence, even their existence.”
He added of San Diego: “They considered it as an adjunct territory to their territory.”
The Dodgers barely appeared to know the Padres existed till 1982, when Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer hit Joe Lefebvre within the head with a pitch, and Kurt Bevacqua, a key reserve for San Diego, accused Dodgers Supervisor Tommy Lasorda of ordering it, referring to him as a “fats little Italian.”
Lasorda responded with a veritable spray chart of expletives, saying Bevacqua couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a ship and that he would gladly ship a limousine to drive the infielder to the park to verify his weak bat was within the lineup.
“I discovered the audio of that complete factor actually hilarious,” mentioned Bevacqua, who two years later would hit the primary World Sequence house run in Padres’ historical past.
“The entire thing was, in ’82 we weren’t that good,” Bevacqua mentioned. “In ’83 we began to get a little bit higher and, you already know, right here comes Garv.”
Garv as in Steve Garvey, the Dodgers star who the Padres poached earlier than the 1983 season. His iconic house run lifted the workforce to its first World Sequence in 1984.
Moments of San Diego baseball superiority have been fleeting. However together with the poaching of Garvey, the Padres have mastered the artwork of trolling the Dodgers.
In 1999, they greeted Kevin Brown, the ace of their World Sequence workforce in 1998, with a Wall Avenue-flavored playlist after he spurned San Diego to develop into baseball’s first $100-million man in Los Angeles.
The Padres took the teasing to a different degree in 2000 when the brand new normal supervisor of the Dodgers, Kevin Malone, declared there was a “new sheriff on the town.” The Padres responded with the duvet of their media information that includes then-owner John Moores, Lucchino, Normal Supervisor Kevin Towers and Supervisor Bruce Bochy decked out in Western gear, posing in entrance of a “jail” at a theme park in Arizona.
The Padres have been unable to detain — and even deter — the Dodgers since. When Los Angeles swept San Diego in a division collection in October, the Padres had been making their first postseason look since 2006.
“It’s a little bit early, I feel, to name it a rivalry,” mentioned Charley Steiner, a Dodgers radio broadcaster. “A budding rivalry could be a little bit extra correct.”
The items definitely are in place. The Dodgers preserve the sport’s highest payroll at $237 million, whereas the Padres rank eighth with a franchise-record $180 million. Of seven stratospheric, $300 million-plus contracts within the sport, three of these gamers had been on the sector this weekend: Betts (12 years, $365 million), Machado (10 years, $300 million) and Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million), two of whom, pretty shockingly, play for the Padres.
“That latter level is a major one,” mentioned Lucchino, the person who referred to as the Yankees the Evil Empire after turning into the Purple Sox president and chief government in 2001.
In some ways, this arms race is harking back to the Yankees-Purple Sox rivalry within the 2000s: The Yankees had gained 4 World Sequence titles in 5 years. The Purple Sox, who had not gained one since 1918, knew they needed to construct a workforce able to beating the Yankees. Whereas the Dodgers’ title final 12 months was their first since 1988, they’ve performed in three of the previous 4 World Sequence.
“Now let’s see what the Padres can do over a sustained time period,” Steiner mentioned.
After the wild 11-6 marathon on Friday, Kershaw and Darvish produced a riveting, old style pitchers’ duel within the Dodgers’ 2-Zero win on Saturday. That pushed the Dodgers to 13-2, the most effective 15-game begin for a defending World Sequence champion. In profitable on Sunday, the Padres no less than earned just a few smiles.
The Dodgers are actually 96-47 in opposition to the Padres courting to 2013. And this L.A. workforce reminds Steiner of his earlier radio cease.
“Just like the Yankees, the center of the workforce is actually the identical,” Steiner mentioned. “You had Jeter, Bernie, Posada, Mariano, they had been the center of that workforce for thus lengthy. Now, the Dodgers have basically the center of a workforce that has gone 60 video games over .500 during the last 162 video games. It’s mainly the identical workforce with some beneficial additions. San Diego continues to be including, making an attempt to determine how good it may be.”
Now San Diego will attempt to do what Lasorda as soon as mentioned Bevacqua couldn’t.
One in all San Diego’s authentic Dodgers haters, Bevacqua, who has by no means owned a ship, chuckled and supplied a parting shot: “The boats I’ve fallen out of or jumped out of, I’ve hit water each time.”
Comply with Scott Miller on Twitter: @ScottMillerBBL