LOS ANGELES — Any engineer will tell you – before loading too much on a new structure, it’s best to put it through a stress test.
The Dodgers did that with their bullpen on Tuesday night, scoring five times in the first three innings then holding on when things got tight, beating the San Diego Padres, 5-3, in Game 1 of their National League Division Series.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. with Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start for the Dodgers and Yu Darvish for the Padres.
Starting a Game 1 for the first time in his career, Julio Urias retired 12 of the first 13 Padres, striking out six while pounding the strike zone – he threw 18 consecutive strikes at one point in the second and third innings.
The Dodgers had staked him to a lead by then.
Padres starter Mike Clevinger missed the three-game wild-card series due to flu-like symptoms. Tuesday didn’t make him feel any better.
Clevinger gave up 14 runs in 13 innings against the Dodgers during the regular season. Past performance did indicate future results.
Trea Turner went deep with a solo home run in the first inning. After Will Smith doubled with two outs, Max Muncy drove him in with a single through the shift-depleted left side of the infield.
Two innings later, the Dodgers got doubles from Turner, Smith and Gavin Lux and an error by first baseman Wil Myers to produce three more runs and end Clevinger’s night.
That also ended the night for the Dodgers’ offense. They didn’t have a hit after Clevinger left the game and the final 14 Dodgers batters went down in order against the Padres’ relief crew.
With the score 5-0, the game had the familiar look of the Dodgers holding the Padres at the end of a stiff arm while they swung away futilely. But Myers led off the fifth with a home run off Urias and the Padres had life.
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Urias gave up four runs in four starts against the Padres this season but gave up three in the fifth inning of Game 1. Jake Cronenworth followed Myers’ homer with a single and Ha-Seong Kim piled on with a double. A ground out and a sacrifice fly made it a 5-3 game – and marked the first time since July 10 that Urias had given up more than two runs in a start.
The stress-testing of the bullpen began an inning later when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought Evan Phillips in to face the most dangerous part of the Padres lineup. Juan Soto walked and Manny Machado reached on a dribbler up the third-base line, putting the tying runs on base.
Phillips struck out Josh Bell but Myers lined a ground ball 100.1 mph off the bat that seemed headed to right field. Second baseman Gavin Lux darted to his left to snare it, spun back to throw to Turner at second base and Turner fired to first base for a double play – the biggest outs of the night.
Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol tag-teamed the seventh and eighth innings, going through Soto and Machado again before Chris Martin got the honors of closing it out in the ninth.
More to come on this story.