ARLINGTON, Texas — Justin Turner and the Los Angeles Dodgers had a walk in the new park to start their National League Division Series.
The patient Dodgers had already drawn nine free passes before Mookie Betts got their first hit in the sixth inning, and they went ahead to stay on Corey Seager‘s sacrifice fly right after that in a 5-1 win Tuesday night over the NL West rival San Diego Padres.
“We didn’t get a lot of hits early, but we took great at-bats and we made those guys work,” said Turner, who drew two bases on balls. “Our offense is at its best when we’re walking as many times as we’re getting hits.”
Mike Clevinger made it only two pitches into the second inning of his postseason debut for the Padres before leaving with the same elbow injury that sidelined him during the first round. San Diego’s heavily worked bullpen couldn’t keep putting up zeros – or keeping runners off base, even though the Padres gave up only four hits.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark is Wednesday night.
When Chris Taylor, the No. 9 batter in the Los Angeles order, walked with one out in the sixth in a 1-1 game, it was the Dodgers’ ninth walk through 27 batters and the Padres were already on their sixth pitcher. Betts then doubled into the left-field corner to break up the no-hitter, sending Taylor to third and setting up Seager’s sac fly.
“We felt like it was a matter of time,” Cody Bellinger said. “We grinded, and it was a good team win.”
Los Angeles got all its hits in the sixth, including RBI singles by Turner and Bellinger. Another run scored on a wild pitch and the Dodgers also drew their 10th walk, matching Atlanta in 1997 for the most in a nine-inning NLDS game.
The Dodgers scored an unearned run in the fourth when Bellinger reached on a two-out throwing error by rookie second baseman Jake Croneworth after two walks and a wild pitch earlier in the inning.
Dustin May (1-0), the 23-year-old Dodgers right-hander who grew up about 30 miles away in Justin, Texas, struck out three over two perfect innings in relief of Walker Buehler. Kenley Jansen, the fourth reliever, finished a three-hitter for Los Angeles.
Garrett Richards (0-1) was gone after giving up the hit to Betts. So was rookie manager Jayce Tingler, who was ejected by plate umpire Lance Barrett for arguing balls and strikes when making yet another pitching change.
“Bottom line, we lost the battle of the strike zone on both sides,” Tingler said. “We know they’re a disciplined team, and they didn’t chase. At the same time, we had chances offensively and they made some big pitches to get out of some jams.”
With injured starters Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet out for the first round, the Padres became the first team to use at least eight pitchers in three consecutive playoff games. Nine relievers combined on a four-hit shutout in the Game 3 clincher over the St. Louis Cardinals last Friday.
The nine pitchers in a nine-inning game is a postseason record, and the Padres have now done it three times in four games.
Clevinger left his last regular-season start Sept. 23 after one inning because of an elbow impingement, but was added to the Padres’ 28-player NLDS roster earlier Tuesday, when he was named the starter for Game 1. The herky-jerky right-hander, acquired from Cleveland in a nine-player trade Aug. 31, walked two and threw a wild pitch in a scoreless first.
After Clevinger went 2-0 on Bellinger to start the second, Tingler and a trainer visited the mound, and the pitcher left after a brief conversation. It was only his second start start since a two-hit shutout in a seven-inning complete game Sept. 13.
Clevinger said he first felt tightness when facing Seager in the first inning, and did several things to try to get loose before going out for the second.
“It was like a NASCAR pit stop almost,” Clevinger said. “Just tried to keep it going. It wasn’t there.”
The pitcher was being evaluated after the game, and the Padres didn’t rule out a potential return in this series.
Buehler struck out eight, but the right-hander who has dealt with blisters all year needed a season-high 95 pitches to get through four innings. He walked four and allowed only two singles.
In the stadium where the Padres began their record streak of grand slams in four consecutive games, Buehler walked the bases loaded with one out in the second inning. Buehler got out of the jam with strikeouts of Jurickson Profar and leadoff hitter Trent Grisham, but finished that inning already with 53 pitches and more balls than strikes (27-26).
The Padres had lost five in a row when they got to Texas on Aug. 17, but hit grand slams in four consecutive games against the Rangers – two at the new stadium when the roof was closed, and then the next two games played in San Diego. That was also the start of a seven-game winning streak that pushed the Padres into second place in the NL West for the rest of the season.
Padres rookie left-hander Ryan Weathers made his major league debut, throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The 20-year-old Weathers became the second pitcher in two days to make his MLB debut in a playoff game, following Tampa Bay reliever Shane McClanahan on Monday night against the New York Yankees. Weathers was the seventh pick in the 2018 amateur draft. He was the fifth player in big league history to debut in a playoff game.
Dodgers pitchers had thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings until San Diego got on the board in the fourth. Los Angeles has only three longer streaks in the postseason, the record being 21 in a row in 2016. … Padres pitchers made it to 13 in a row, with all but one of those innings by a reliever, before the Dodgers’ unearned run in the fifth.
Padres: While Clevinger was back briefly, Lamet (right biceps tightness) was left off the NLDS roster. Lamet, who left his last regular-season start Sept. 25, has been playing catch, but hasn’t yet thrown a bullpen.
Dodgers: INF Edwin Rios was left off the NLDS roster because of a groin issue. Manager Dave Roberts said Rios tweaked his groin after making a play to his right and making a throw to first during a workout Sunday.
Clayton Kershaw, who still lives in nearby Dallas where the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner grew up, pitches an MLB game in Arlington for the first time in his 13 big league seasons with the Dodgers. The Padres hadn’t announced a starter for Game 2.