All the hype surrounding the Padres’ start this season?
The Dodgers made it look like a bunch of hot air for the past 10 days.
After clinching a consecutive win in San Diego last weekend, the Dodgers smashed their National League West rivals in style this weekend in Los Angeles, earning their fifth straight win over the Padres with a 4-0 shutout on Sunday and fifth straight win overall at Dodger Stadium.
Instead of walking away with the division crown like many pundits predicted earlier in the season, the Padres are seven games behind the Dodgers in the NL West standings.
Rather than capitalize on their postseason success in October – when they seemed to tip the scales with their win over the Dodgers in a 111-win National League Division Series – the Padres have quickly returned to third place with a star-studded roster that is still disappointing.
“It’s just good to play good baseball against a team like that,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Put some distance between us and them.”
On paper, some will still see the Padres (19-22) as a better, stronger team. And with three quarters of the season remaining, the Dodgers (26-15) are far from completely breaking away from their Southern California opponents.
But by this point in the year, the contrast between the clubs was nonetheless staggering — with the Dodgers again looking like baseball’s version of a blue-chip stock, just as the Padres were teetering like a fake, volatile, and crash-prone cryptocurrency.
“I don’t think we’ve ever really felt like we were the underdogs,” Roberts said when asked about the teams’ perceptions preseason. “The most important thing is to play baseball games and find out who is the best team. I’ve always liked our club.”
Sunday’s game was the most one-sided the clubs have ever played.
After missing most of April with a sprained ankle, Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin was starting for the fourth time this season. The right-hander (1-1) scattered two hits and a walk in five innings. He crossed out six. And he lowered his earned run average to 1.42, continuing to rediscover his All-Star form from last year.
“I thought my fastball command was among the best since I debuted in 1919,” said Gonsolin, who also displayed increased fastball speed, reaching 95 miles per hour. “In terms of health, I feel good. Build more confidence every day. Just trust that everything will work.”
The underside of the Dodgers’ bullpen held up as well, with Yency Almonte, Victor González, Brusdar Graterol and Justin Bruihl limiting the Padres to three baserunners in the last four innings.
“The guys are starting to understand their roles and understand what’s expected,” Roberts said. “It takes time to integrate that into a new team. And I think we’re on the right track.”
Mookie Betts and Miguel Vargas provided plenty of attacking power. Betts hit the first in the third inning with a two-run home run. Vargas doubled the lead with a two-run double in the sixth.
And after improving to 13-2 in their last 15 games, the Dodgers ended the day with the best record in the National Leaguepassed the Atlanta Braves barely two weeks before a troubling .500 start to the season.
“It’s a long season and I think we’re just playing ball,” Betts said. “We have a really good team and we’re showing that.”
When asked if the Dodgers had been emboldened by their recent two-week tenure, Betts put the question from one perspective.
“I think from the outside you definitely wondered what’s going on,” he said of the club’s early record of 13:13.
“I find [this recent run] “That’s probably more encouraging for you guys,” he added as a swarm of members of the media surrounded his locker.
Internally, however, “we knew what we were capable of,” explained Betts. “We know what we can do.”
And of late, the Dodgers have begun to prove their mettle against everyone they faced, leaving even the once-popular Padres faltering.
Kershaw and Syndergaard are expected to make the next launches
Despite the death of his mother Marianne on Saturday, Clayton Kershaw still plans to make his next scheduled start for the Dodgers on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins, Roberts said.
“He’s fine,” Roberts said ahead of Sunday’s Mother’s Day game. “I’m sure he has a heavy heart that day. But as far as I understand it, he will start on Tuesday.”
Kershaw declined to discuss the situation on Sunday, but Roberts hinted the 35-year-old may no longer be on the team’s mourning list following Tuesday’s assignment.
“It’s not surprising,” Roberts said of Kershaw’s desire to pitch. “And then, once he’s started, I’m sure there will be some things that he’ll attend, a ceremony or a service if they choose to.”
Roberts also confirmed Noah Syndergaard is on course to pitch against Minnesota on Monday night after struggling with a blister for the past week — although the Dodgers are edging out potential Gavin Stone after a Triple-A start on Sunday have to give themselves a backup plan in case one of the pitchers gets into trouble changes.