The Dodgers-Padres rivalry is quickly becoming one of the most heated in baseball. Los Angeles third baseman Justin Turner said during spring training that he expected the divisional matchups with San Diego this year to be like “19 World Series games,” and they’ve lived up to the hype thus far.
The Dodgers took two out of three in San Diego last weekend, including a game on Saturday that featured Clayton Kershaw’s yelling at Jurickson Profar for his “bull—- swing” that resulted in a catcher’s interference call. Profar fired back, telling Kershaw to “shut the f— up.”
The second series of the season between the two teams, a four-game set at Dodger Stadium, began on Thursday night. The Dodgers tied the game at two with back-to-back homers in the bottom of the seventh, but the Padres were able to retake the lead in the top of the eighth when Fernando Tatis Jr. grounded into a double play that allowed Profar to score from third.
The Dodgers seemed poised to erase that lead once again in the bottom of the inning after Padres reliever Nabil Crismatt allowed a single and ground rule double to open the inning. Crismatt was then lifted in favor of Tim Hill, who got Max Muncy to ground out to second. San Diego manager Jayce Tingler called for A.J. Pollock to be intentionally walked, loading the bases in hopes of forcing an inning-ending double play.
And it worked. Spectacularly.
The double play the Padres turned was one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see.
The grounder off the bat of Sheldon Neuse was hit hard—so hard, in fact, that second baseman Jake Cronenworth wasn’t able to field it cleanly. He played the ball so smoothly that on the original broadcast angle it looked like a routine play. In reality, he was forced to knock it down, pick it up off the dirt and toss it to Tatis in a single motion. The speed with which he made the recovery gave Tatis just enough time to deliver an absolute laser beam of a throw to first, which beat Neuse by the slimmest of margins. And don’t discount Tatis’s ability to stretch for Cronenworth’s toss like a first baseman and keep his toe on the bag. Everything had to go perfectly to avoid allowing the tying run to score.
The ninth inning went a lot more smoothly for the Padres, as Mark Melancon struck out the side in order to lock down the 3–2 victory. The key was that double play, though.
“We’ve been part of big innings (and) big home runs,” Tingler told reporters. “That play defensively felt like a playoff home run in a critical moment with your life on the line.”
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