If Blake Snell is the caliber of ace the Dodgers need to beat in the playoffs, then Wednesday night’s game doesn’t bode well for their World Series hopes.
Mookie Betts led off the first inning with a bloop single to left-center field, and the Dodgers didn’t get another hit from the veteran left-hander in one 1:6 defeat for the San Diego Padres in front of 41,810 spectators in the Chávez Gorge.
Snell, who combined a lively 96 mph fastball with a curve, a changeup and a slider, burnished his National League Cy Young Award credentials with a six-inning effort, one hit, eight strikeouts and a walk that tied him for 14th -9 improved with a league-best 2.43 ERA.
With 217 strikeouts, Snell ranks second in the Netherlands behind Atlanta ace Spencer Strider (259) and leads the majors in opponents’ batting average (.187). Betts, who also walked in the third, was the only Dodger to reach base against Snell.
Padres right-hander Robert Suarez struck out the team in the seventh inning, right-hander Nick Martinez allowed one hit in a scoreless eighth inning and left-hander Tom Cosgrove allowed a solo home run to Kolten Wong in the ninth inning.
The only other bright spot for the Dodgers (88-57), who rank second in the majors in runs, home runs and on-base-plus-slugging percentage and lead baseball in walks, was that they hit their magic number clinching their 10th NL West title in 11 years, the title was reduced to three by Arizona’s loss to the New York Mets.
Dodgers right-hander Ryan Pepiot, who replaced Julio Urías in the rotation last week after the left-hander was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, gave up four runs and six hits in six innings, striking out five and not walking 2 fell -1 with a 2.00 ERA in five starts.
Pepiot was dominant in his most recent start in Miami last Thursday, retiring the first 20 batters before Josh Bell’s two-out single in the sixth inning nullified his attempt at the perfect game. Pepiot settled for seven shutout innings in a 10-0 win.
But two errors, both on 0 and 2 pitches, doomed him on Wednesday night. Juan Soto threw a fastball from right over center at 95 mph to right field for a solo home run in the first inning, and Luis Campusano took a changeup to center at 84 mph over the left field wall for a three -Run home run in the fourth.
Soto’s shot was his 30th home run, moving the outfielder into a select group of six players with multiple 30-home run, 100-walk seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The others: Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Matthews and Jimmie Foxx.
Pepiot retired the next seven batters before Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a double to left-center to open the fourth. Soto hit a single to right that put runners on first and third, and Campusano hit a huge home run into the Dodgers’ bullpen for a 4-0 lead.
Pepiot was replaced at the start of the seventh period by Joe Kelly, who was brought in on Wednesday after missing a month with inflammation in his right forearm.
Kelly walked two batters, gave up a one-out infield single to Eguy Rosario and a two-out, two-run single to Tatis, whose broken-bat flare fell into shallow right field, making it 6-0 took the lead.