The first time he got ahead of the Dodgers on Saturday night, San Diego Padres starter Mike Clevinger just made a bad pitch and hung up a slider that Will Smith hit for a home run.
On the second go, Clevinger survived a weak inning and once again limited the Dodgers to one run, though he faced a two-on-one-out jam in the third.
By the time the Dodgers’ order switched for the third time, the Padres had given Clevinger a one-run lead.
And even though two other men had reached base in the fifth, the sly right-hander was one shot away from getting out of the inning unscathed.
Instead — in a moment that established why it might be difficult for anyone, including the Padres, to take out the Dodgers in October — Clevinger was penalized for one final blunder.
He threw a slider to Max Muncy, which was center left.
The Dodgers’ third baseman launched it to the bullpen in the Padres’ right field.
The triple home run propelled the Dodgers to an 8-3 win, earning their third straight win over the Padres this year and giving them a chance to defeat their rivals on Sunday night on national television.
“Tonight was a clinic,” manager Dave Roberts said. “A team offensive clinic.”
And it came in a game with the same tense tension reminiscent of post-season fall nights.
Dodgers starter Andrew Heaney landed a leadoff double in the first game, threw three scoreless innings to help the Dodgers take a 2-0 lead, but then gave up three unearned runs after an error by Gavin Lux in the fourth.
Heaney, returning to working with a limited number of pitches after suffering two shoulder injuries earlier this season, was pulled with two outs in the fifth and handed the ball to reliever Chris Martin when the Padres’ three-hole hitter Manny Machado came for the record came third time.
Martin finished off Machado to finish the inning and stranded an inherited runner to drop Heaney’s ERA to .64 on the season.
Heaney, who was again working with a limited number of pitches after suffering two shoulder injuries earlier this season, was pulled with two outs in the fifth and handed the ball off to reliever Chris Martin to make his third appearance against Manny Machado.
“Hopefully we can keep it there or extend it a little longer [moving forward]Roberts said of Heaney, whose ERA is now 0.64 in seven starts this season. “But every time he goes out, he gives us a chance to win the ballgame.”
In the next half inning, Clevinger was given a longer leash by Padres manager Bob Melvin.
It backfired spectacularly.
Mookie Betts led the inning with a single, one of his three hits that night. With two outs, Smith was flattened with a changeup and boarded two when Muncy got on the plate.
Earlier on Saturday, Muncy had shown some weak signs of life at the plate after a disastrous first half of the season. He had scored in eight of his last ten games. He had also started making hard contact again after struggling with an ongoing elbow injury and inconsistent swing earlier in the season.
On his third meeting with Clevinger, Muncy took a first pitch ball, countered a called first strike, and then fanned out a sinker to drop behind 1-and-2.
He had to dodge the next pitch, a wild two-seater whizzing past his head.
But as he dug in again, Clevinger offered something far more enticing: a flat slider that stayed over the center of the plate.
Muncy hit it with the explosive swing that helped him hit 35 or more home runs three times in the last four seasons.
And as the ball sailed over the right field fence, he pointed a finger in the air to round first base.
“It’s definitely a bit of a relief,” said Muncy, who hits .170 with a .642 OPS. “It’s a really tough game not to focus on results. But if you’re at a point where I’m at, you must be seeing a few results here or there.
The Dodgers pulled out of there and pulled off a scoreless performance from the bullpen and three insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings, including a third RBI from Smith on a victim fly.
“It was exactly as you would write it,” Roberts said. “We just waited for them.”
The Dodgers (74-33) picked up their seventh straight win and extended their divisional lead to 141/2 games.
And they wore off a dominant performance in Friday’s series opener on Saturday with a different twist – executing the kind of clinical mid-game rally that’s coming at the end of this season will make them hard for anyone to beat.
“It was exactly as you would write it,” Roberts said. “We just waited for them.
“It seems like our lineup has been forgotten with a lot of these things that have happened. It was kind of nice to go out there and prove again that we’re one of the best lineups in baseball, and there’s no question about that.”
Clayton Kershaw update
Roberts said Clayton Kershaw (back pain) received an epidural after going on the injured list on Friday. There’s no timeline for Kershaw to pick up a baseball, but Roberts reiterated that the team believes his absence “will be shorter than longer-term.”
As for the less-than-ideal timing of Kershaw’s injury, which came two days after the Dodgers’ silent trade deadline?
“It’s baseball,” Roberts said. “I think if we had known Clayton was going down, we might have done something different. I don’t know… But you still can’t prepare for what might or might not happen.”
Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol faced hitters on Saturday. Roberts said Graterol could be back in action within 10 days, while Treinen remains on track for an early September return.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-08-06/dodgers-padres-recap-will-smith-max-muncy-mlb Will Smith and Max Muncy lead Dodgers to victory over Padres