Dodgers save flamethrowers early in NLDS against Padres

LOS ANGELES ― Going into the National League Division Series, it was tempting to winnow the Dodgers’ pitching plan against the San Diego Padres to a single fire emoji. No team fared worse at the plate against pitches 96 mph and faster this season than the Padres.

That strategy did not manifest in Game 1. Of the 136 pitches the Dodgers threw in their 5-3 victory, only 14 registered 96 mph or faster, according to Statcast. They yielded as many hits (two) as swinging strikes.

A strategy is only as good as the personnel who can execute it, and the Dodgers did not deploy their flamethrowers in Game 1.

Brusdar Graterol, the team’s hardest-throwing reliever, needed only one pitch to retire the only batter he faced, getting Manny Machado to fly out on a 95-mph cutter. Dustin May, who occasionally touched triple digits as a starter, was not available out of the bullpen on Tuesday night. Another hard thrower, Blake Treinen, didn’t appear in the game.

Coincidentally, no team fared better against pitches 96 mph and faster during the regular season than the Dodgers ― and San Diego came ready.

Only seven of the Padres’ 140 pitches in Game 1 registered 96 mph or faster. Starter Mike Clevinger threw nearly as many sliders and curveballs (26) as fastballs (28). The Dodgers knew what was coming.

“It’s going to happen a lot tonight,” Manager Dave Roberts said prior to Game 2. “Yu (Darvish) has had a lot of success against us. It’s some fastballs, a lot of cutters, it’s a slider, it’s a split. A curveball once in a while. There’s certainly going to be a lot of spin.”

Darvish ultimately threw only one pitch harder than 95 mph, and 32 sliders or curveballs slower than 84 mph, in 5-plus innings.

GAME THREE STARTER

Before the NLDS started, the Dodgers made it sound like they were debating between Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw to start Game 1 – even though Urias later revealed he knew the day after the regular season ended that he would start the postseason opener.

They were not being any more transparent about their plans for Game 3 in San Diego with Roberts saying before Game 2 that they were still “contemplating and want to leave it open-ended.”

After the game, Roberts announced that Tony Gonsolin would start Game 3 in San Diego with Tyler Anderson then lined up for Game 4.

Gonsolin has made just one minor-league start and one major-league start after returning in late September from a forearm injury. He pitched only two innings in each.

“We extended him in the live sim games that we had this past week,” Roberts said. “We feel good about the length and how he is throwing the baseball.”

Dustin May did not pitch in the first two games of the series (after going three innings in an intrasquad game on Sunday) and could be available to pair with Gonsolin in Game 3.

POSTGAME SHOW

After Game 2, outfielder Mookie Betts took his first official turn as an executive producer.

An original documentary, “Jackie Robinson: Get To The Bag,” aired on FS1 following the studio’s postgame coverage of the NLDS. It is the handiwork of a “multimedia production deal” between One Media/Marketing Group (OMG), the company Betts co-founded in 2020 with Jeff Mason and Cam Lewis, and Propagate.

As part of the deal announced in January, Betts will executive produce films, scripted TV, unscripted TV shows and podcasts. “Jackie Robinson: Get To The Bag” is narrated by Brooklyn-based rapper Skyzoo, and features interviews with historians and other baseball players.

PITCHCOMMOTION

One day after the electronic pitcher-catcher communication system briefly failed the Padres in Game 1 of the NLDS, Anderson said he could relate.

He was the last of the Dodgers’ starting pitchers to embrace the PitchCom technology, in which the catcher presses a button and the pitcher hears the pre-recorded name of a pitch through a device inserted into his hat.

“The time that I did use it, I had the same issue that he had where sometimes they just don’t work where there’s no sound,” Anderson recalls of his first experience using PitchCom. “The reason I kind of gave in late was that you don’t want to go the whole year and rely on that and then all of a sudden it’s not working in a situation where you’re hoping that it will, for whatever reason.”

Dodgers catcher Will Smith observed that the playoff crowd was louder than usual, and was ready to use the traditional pitch-calling system – catcher puts down fingers, pitcher throws a pitch – in case PitchCom fails.

“I just adjust my volume based on the crowd noise,” he said. “So, yeah, it worked well last night.”

CONTRACT TIME

Concession workers who staff the food and beverage stands at Dodger Stadium voted in favor of ratifying a contract with the two concessions providers at the stadium: Compass Group and Levy Restaurants.

According to Unite Here Local 11, which represents the bargaining unit, 75% of workers will earn more than $30 an hour by the end of their new contract, while some – including stand workers, dishwashers, and cooks – will see pay increases of more than $13 per hour.

The workers had voted to authorize a strike in advance of the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in July.

Staff writer Bill Plunkett contributed to this story.