Miguel Vargas drives in 3 runs as Dodgers beat Padres again

Dodgers starting pitcher Brusdar Graterol throws to the plate during the first inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Sean Manaea works against a Dodgers batter during the second inning on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers starting pitcher Brusdar Graterol throws to the plate during the first inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers starting pitcher Brusdar Graterol throws to the plate during the first inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dodgers starting pitcher Brusdar Graterol throws to the plate during the first inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

San Diego Padres right fielder Juan Soto takes a moment before the team’s game against the Dodgers on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The San Diego Padres’ Juan Soto watches his single against the Dodgers during the first inning on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers relief pitcher Andrew Heaney throws to the plate during the second inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado, left, talks with shortstop Ha-Seong Kim during the fourth inning of the team’s game against the Dodgers on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts rounds first base after hitting a double during the sixth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman, left, celebrates with first base coach Clayton McCullough after hitting an RBI single during the sixth inning of the team’s baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas hits a two-run single during the sixth inning of the team’s baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas connects for a two-run single to give his team the lead during the sixth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. The Dodgers won, 5-2. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas watches his two-run single during the sixth inning of the team’s baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman scores on a two-run single hit by Miguel Vargas during the sixth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, right fielder Mookie Betts (50) and bench coach Bob Geren, right, congratulate Freddie Freeman as he returns to the dugout after scoring on a two-run single hit by Miguel Vargas during the sixth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dodgers relief pitcher Caleb Ferguson adjusts his jersey while working against a San Diego Padres batter during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The San Diego Padres’ Juan Soto reacts after a swinging strike during the seventh inning of the team’s baseball game against the Dodgers on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Dodgers’ Will Smith, right, celebrates with third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a home run during the eighth inning of the team’s baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers left fielder Miguel Vargas stretches over the dugout railing as he reaches for a foul ball during the eighth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers relief pitcher Alex Vesia works against a San Diego Padres batter during the eighth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers relief pitcher David Price works against a San Diego Padres batter during the ninth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dodgers relief pitcher David Price celebrates with catcher Austin Barnes after the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres, 5-2, on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, congratulates right fielder Mookie Betts after they defeated the San Diego Padres, 5-2, on Thursday night in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dodgers left fielder Miguel Vargas, left, celebrates with center fielder Cody Bellinger after the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres, 5-2, on Thursday night in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

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SAN DIEGO — It would take constant vigilance to spot Miguel Vargas without a smile creasing his face.

What’s not to love about life when you’re 22 years old, the top prospect in a loaded system, getting your first taste of the big leagues and hitting your first major-league home run even though your playing time has been sporadic?

Vargas had more to smile about Thursday night.

He drove in three runs including two with a two-out, tie-breaking single in the sixth inning as the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres, 5-2, at Petco Park.

“Oh, yeah. Of course,” Vargas said when asked if he has been enjoying his time in the big leagues. “I’m on the best team in baseball.”

The win added to the Dodgers’ status as such, extending their franchise-record total (108). They completed their road schedule with a 54-27 record and return home to finish the regular season with six games against the Colorado Rockies.

Their next win (or Houston Astros loss) will clinch the best record in baseball and secure home-field advantage through the World Series. Two more wins will make them the first National League team with 110 wins in a season since the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates.

When Vargas was promoted from Triple-A in early September, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he would have an opportunity to play his way onto a postseason roster. Those opportunities have been limited even after the Dodgers clinched their division. Thursday was just Vargas’ eighth start this month and he didn’t get this one until Trayce Thompson was scratched from the lineup for personal reasons.

Getting at-bats at such a scattered rate has not been easy for Vargas. He was just 5 for 31 (.162) in September before Thursday. But Roberts continues to say Vargas could make the postseason roster. That would require him to unseat a more established player – most likely Thompson or Joey Gallo, both of whom have slumped in September.

“It is (difficult with limited playing time),” Roberts said. “But … when you’re looking to take a good at-bat off the bench, depending on what the (playoff) matchup looks like, who their pitchers are, what their ’pen looks like, kind of running the play out and seeing if it makes sense. All Miguel can do is respond when given the opportunities.”

Vargas acknowledges that making the postseason roster is on his mind.

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “I want to be there. I want to win the ring. Of course.”

He managed to do something his more established teammates struggled to do during the series in San Diego – come through with runners in scoring position.

Vargas drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Trailing 2-1, they put together the go-ahead rally in the sixth.

Mookie Betts started it with a leadoff double (just his seventh hit in his past 39 at-bats) and went to third when Trea Turner beat out an infield single. Freddie Freeman dropped a bloop single into left field to drive Betts in with the tying run.

Will Smith and Chris Taylor sandwiched strikeouts around a Max Muncy walk that loaded the bases. That brought up Vargas who fell behind 1-and-2 against Padres reliever Pierce Johnson. Vargas fouled off a fastball, took a curveball below the zone then reached out for another curveball just off the plate and lashed a single through the middle at 98.3 mph.

“It was one of those at-bats where I was really focused, knew what I had to do,” said Vargas who is now 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position as a big-leaguer. “Obviously the first at-bat, men on first and third, I have to put the ball in the air. The next one, I just tried to fight that at-bat, try to get a hit no matter what.”

Will Smith later added a solo home run as the Dodgers crowd-tested some of their postseason pitching options.

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Andrew Heaney turned in four scoreless innings as the “bulk” guy, coming in after Brusdar Graterol had given up two runs in the first inning.

“I think tonight was a good exercise for him to come out of the ’pen. I thought he threw the ball well,” Roberts said. “But I do think the way we’ve used him as a starter, the innings when he does take the mound, I think bulk makes sense whether it’s by starting or by way of coming in.

Demoted from the closer role, Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless sixth. After Caleb Ferguson got into trouble in the seventh, putting the tying runs on for Manny Machado with two outs, Chris Martin came in and struck Machado out.

In 24 appearances since joining the Dodgers in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, Martin has allowed 12 hits while striking out 30 and walking just one in 23-1/3 innings.

Alex Vesia cleaned up after Martin in the eighth and David Price handled the ninth for his third career save (in his 399th career game).

Vargas drives in 2. #Dodgers lead 4-2 pic.twitter.com/veWmS54rXL

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) September 30, 2022

HR Will Smith!! #Dodgers lead 5-2 pic.twitter.com/FOp5Psu30n

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) September 30, 2022