LOS ANGELES ― The Dodgers and San Diego Padres will meet Sunday for the sixth time in the last nine days. Each game has been decided by three runs or less, including the Dodgers’ 4-2 win Saturday before an announced crowd of 51,334 at Dodger Stadium.
J.D. Martinez had the big hit early against Joe Musgrove (1-1), a three-run home run in the first inning. More than stockpiling wins against an emerging rival, Martinez believes the Dodgers’ fourth win in five tries against the Padres bodes well for the future.
“As far as our preparation, the way we get ready, it’s another team,” Martinez said. “Obviously the fans get into it. There’s more energy out there. You can feel it. Especially when we were in San Diego, I feel like it was really rowdy for a bit. It’s cool though. I love it.
“I’m a firm believer, seeing it in ‘18 when we (the Boston Red Sox) played the Yankees, it was insane ― a World Series-type atmosphere every game. These kind of environments where it’s rowdy, it’s loud, a lot of pressure, prepares you for the playoffs, you know?”
The playoffs felt like a distant concern before the Dodgers won 12 of their last 14 games, pulling 10 games over .500 (25-15) and claiming a firm grasp on the National League West. They now lead the third-place Padres (19-21) by six games in the division.
The Dodgers’ recent run has coincided with the team getting healthy in the case of Martinez, who returned Friday after spending 15 games on the injured list recovering from a back injury, and catcher Will Smith, who missed 13 games following a concussion. Another five players ― Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Brusdar Graterol, Evan Phillips, and Caleb Ferguson ― entered and exited the paternity list.
Now that the roster is healthy and properly paternalized, the Dodgers’ depth is flexing its muscles. A sweep would give the Dodgers three sweeps in their last three series at home, for a total of nine consecutive wins at Dodger Stadium.
“We’ve done the work to put ourselves in this spot right now,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve got a chance to go for the jugular.”
Julio Urías (5-3) pitched seven strong innings in his second consecutive start against the Padres. The left-hander allowed solo home runs to Juan Soto and Ha-Seong Kim in the first two innings, when Dodger Stadium was mostly bathed in sunlight for the afternoon contest. He allowed only one hit the rest of the way, striking out four batters and walking none.
Urías also helped himself in the sixth inning with his glove.
With one out, Manny Machado reached base on a throwing error by third baseman Max Muncy. Juan Soto hit a slow tapper between the pitcher’s mound and first base, perfectly placed to give the Padres their first hit since the home run by Kim.
The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, hit a hard ground ball back to the mound that Urías did well simply to field cleanly. He then spun to second base and threw quickly enough to start a 1-4-3 double play ― ending the inning and preserving the Dodgers’ 4-2 lead.
“I needed it,” Urías said in Spanish.
Urías finished the seventh inning by striking out Kim on his 86th and final pitch. Evan Phillips pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Brusdar Graterol got two quick outs in the ninth, then allowed consecutive singles to Xander Bogaerts and Nelson Cruz to extend the inning.
With left-handed hitter Jake Cronenworth representing the winning run, Roberts summoned southpaw Caleb Ferguson from the bullpen to record the final out. Ferguson struck out Cronenworth, earning his first save since the 2018 season.
Freeman had two of the Dodgers’ eight hits. Martinez followed first-inning singles by Freeman and Muncy with a 407-foot blast to left field, his fifth home run of the season.
The veteran DH said he’s feeling more comfortable now after straining to make a strong impression early in his new surroundings. Having a deep and healthy lineup around him ― at last ― has made that easier.
“At the beginning I felt like I was pressing a little bit, trying to do too much,” Martinez said. “We’ve got a good enough team, I don’t have to do anything, really. Just do what I know how to do. If it’s me that night, it’s me. If it’s the other eight hitters it’s the other eight hitters. Our lineup’s really potent.”
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