The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres played 30 innings of baseball over the weekend and were separated by two runs or fewer in all but three of them. Friday’s game spanned 12 innings and consisted of 17 pitchers and four ties. Saturday’s game ended on a Mookie Betts diving catch with the tying run in scoring position. Sunday’s game wasn’t decided until the bottom of the eighth. The Dodgers won 2 of 3, but the Padres took the series finale to snap their seven-game losing streak against them.
The Dodgers, winners of eight straight before Sunday, possess a major league-best 13-3 record, 3½ games better than the Padres in the National League West. But the teams will meet again in four days for the start of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s a good preview for many more to come — both teams playing with a ton of energy, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “There’s a ton of emotion, it’s great drawing off the fans’ energy, and just the back-and-forth battles. I know for the guys out there playing, it’s really easy to get up and get going. There’s a ton of adrenaline in the stadium, and you’re almost forced to be locked in.”
Below is a look at what we can take away from an opening series that somehow exceeded the hype coming in.
Close games galore: Trevor Bauer pounded his chest and roared as he made his way back into the Dodgers’ dugout at the end of the sixth inning Sunday. He had just blown a 97 mph fastball past Fernando Tatis Jr., punctuating another stellar outing that lowered his ERA to 2.42 and raised his strikeout total to an NL-leading 36. The six starting pitchers in this series — Bauer, Blake Snell, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Walker Buehler and Ryan Weathers — combined for a 1.60 ERA over the weekend, which isn’t much of a surprise. These might be the two best starting rotations in baseball. That means we’ll probably continue to get these close, intense games throughout the year.
If Snell matches up with Bauer again, he has a request.
“Bauer, he be digging in that mound a lot,” Snell said. “Oh my god. It looked like something just crashed on top of the mound. It was just the biggest hole. So Bauer, we gotta work on that. I know you gotta get grip on the mound or whatever, but man, my foot was killing me.”
Machado still owns Bauer: It’s a running joke that has gained prominence and is now flat-out ridiculous — Bauer can’t get Manny Machado out. No, seriously. Machado came in batting .588/.667/1.412 in 21 career plate appearances against Bauer, then smacked two singles against him that traveled 104-plus mph. Bauer had a full count against Machado in the fourth, then shook off Will Smith and threw an up-and-in fastball that was smoked past the glove of Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. Machado has nine hits in 12 at-bats that have finished with a Bauer fastball, five of them for extra bases. It was a funny quirk before. Now, within the context of this rivalry, it’s a problem.
“I kept him in the park,” he said, “so I’m going in the right direction.”
Tatis still figuring it out: The start of this series coincided with Tatis’ return from a shoulder subluxation. By the end of it, it was clear Tatis still is not quite right. The question is whether these are the usual struggles that befall players over the course of a long season and are only magnified at the start, or if that tender left shoulder is truly affecting his production. Tatis hit a 410-foot home run to straightaway center field on Friday, but otherwise he was 0-for-12 with six strikeouts and a walk. He added two errors on Friday — giving him seven through his first six games — and would have had another on Sunday if not for a nice pick by Eric Hosmer at first base.
Tatis also worked a walk, hit a hard line drive and seemingly just got under a potential home run on a hanging breaking ball in the series finale. Prior to Saturday’s game, Tatis downplayed the severity of his shoulder issue and expressed confidence in his ability to manage it over the next six months.
“That’s a thing I can manage very well,” Tatis said. “I think that’s not gonna be something that’s gonna be bothering me for the rest of the year.”
Clayton Kershaw believes Jurickson Profar intentionally tries to get a catcher’s interference call and the two get into a screaming match across the field.
No love lost: You know it’s heated when Kershaw curses. On Saturday, Kershaw took exception with the way Jurickson Profar swung late on a two-strike fastball, making contact with Austin Barnes’ glove and being placed on first base because of catcher’s interference. “That’s a bulls— swing!” Kershaw yelled as he and Profar hollered back and forth across the field. One night earlier, Dennis Santana and Jorge Mateo got into it on a 10th-inning hit by pitch, causing both benches to empty. Sunday didn’t provide any further animosity, but it was primed for fireworks nonetheless. There will be more of the same this season. Count on that.
Hosmer coming up big: Perhaps the Padres’ most encouraging sign last year came in the form of Eric Hosmer, who batted .287/.333/.517 and looked a lot more like the elite first baseman from his Kansas City Royals days. The early part of this season is showing that those 2020 numbers might not be the result of small sample sizes. Hosmer carries a .986 OPS through his first 68 plate appearances this season. On Friday, he hit a two-out, game-tying single in the ninth. On Sunday, he hit the two-out, game-winning single in the eighth.
“Hos is, in my opinion, as good as anybody in the game at those moments,” Tingler said, “and I think a big part of it is he wants those at-bats, he wants those moments when the game’s on the line and things like that. He’s as good as anybody in the game at delivering those.”
Padres have to clean it up: The Padres could have won Friday’s game if not for three errors, which bumped their major league-leading total to 16. Saturday’s game could have been entirely different had Trent Grisham properly read the defense behind him on Machado’s sixth-inning single, which would have allowed him to score from second as opposed to advancing only one base. The margin for error against the Dodgers is too small to make mistakes like that.
“We just understand we have to play great baseball against these guys,” Hosmer said. “We can’t afford to give up mistakes, we can’t afford to give them extra bases. We just gotta lock in ourselves, defensively, on the basepaths. We have to make sure we’re playing good baseball. That’s what this series definitely proved; I think they proved that in the playoffs, as well. We know we have to be on top of our game to beat those guys.”
A necessary edge: The Dodgers spent the offseason motivated by a desire to not get stale coming off a championship, a driving factor in their surprising effort to sign Bauer. In spring training, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts constantly preached the importance of remaining in the moment and maintaining an edge throughout a season that can often feel monotonous, particularly for such highly accomplished teams. The Dodgers, pacing the sport with a plus-38 run differential, clearly haven’t had any problems remaining focused in the early going. But the Padres’ presence might only help them throughout the summer. L.A. is on a 132-win pace, and somehow reality doesn’t feel very far from that.
Roberts dismissed the Padres’ presence as a motivating factor, consistent with the Dodgers’ clear intent to downplay this rivalry. But he admitted that the Padres are “a hungry group.”
“I think they’ve looked at us and want to kind of take us down in the National League West, and they’re talented, they can pitch,” Roberts said. “Lot of talent over there.”
ESPN, MLB announce seven-year extension running through 2028
ESPN and Major League Baseball announced a seven-year contract extension Thursday that will see the network carry 30 regular-season games per year plus wild-card games.
The deal, which runs through 2028, allows ESPN to show 25 weeks of Sunday Night Baseball and the MLB Little League Classic. It will also have an Opening Night game and the Home Run Derby around the All-Star Game. ESPN can show alternate versions of each game, such as the popular StatCast broadcasts on ESPN2. All telecasts will be exclusive.
ESPN currently shows one of two wild-card games. In 2022, if MLB expands to eight series, as it did in 2020, ESPN would carry the entire schedule of games. If the wild-card playoffs don’t expand, ESPN would get eight more regular-season games exclusively per year.
In addition, ESPN will be able to create new MLB content for ESPN+, including highlight-driven programming. There will continue to be a game nearly every day on ESPN+, subject to local blackout restrictions, and all games on ESPN or ABC can be simulcast on ESPN+.
ESPN Radio will continue to carry regular-season games and the full MLB postseason, including the World Series. The deal also includes increased highlight rights for studio content, including digital shows like BBTN Live, and Spanish-language rights for ESPN Deportes.
“ESPN’s longstanding relationship with Major League Baseball has been a driver of innovation for three decades,” James Pitaro, Chairman ESPN and Sports Content, said in a statement. “This agreement solidifies baseball’s ubiquitous presence across ESPN platforms, including ESPN+. The impactful collection of exclusive content, including Sunday Night Baseball which has served as the signature MLB series for more than 30 years, will be amplified by the surrounding rights we have to make these live events even bigger.”
“ESPN has been one of MLB’s longest and most important partners,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. “This extension continues the evolution of our relationship with a focus on utilizing ESPN’s extensive assets to shine a spotlight on key matchups throughout the year.”
Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes sets record for strikeouts without a walk to start season
Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes set the record for strikeouts without a walk to start the season Thursday, extending the record to 58 before issuing his first walk of the season in the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Burnes, 26, needed three strikeouts to pass the previous record of 51 strikeouts without a walk held by Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen, set in 2017. Burnes struck out Dylan Carlson in the first inning and then Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader in the second inning to set the record.
His strikeout total reached nine for the game through the fourth inning to set another major league record — strikeouts without a walk at any point in a season. He passed Greg Maddux (53) and Gerrit Cole and Curt Schilling (56 each) on that list. Schilling achieved the feat in 2002 and Cole’s streak is still active.
Burnes’ streaks ended, however, in the fifth inning when he walked the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman. Cole will have a chance to break Burnes’ record for most strikeouts without a walk at any point in a season in his next start for the New York Yankees.
Burnes is making his first start after testing positive for COVID-19. He was asymptomatic and said he kept in shape throwing outside his apartment complex and using cardio equipment.
New York Yankees SS Gleyber Torres to miss second straight game, sources say
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, who was held out of Wednesday night’s game out of “an abundance of caution,” will not play in Thursday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, sources told ESPN.
The Yankees have confirmed seven cases of COVID-19 among their coaching and support staff, and manager Aaron Boone said the team was waiting for the MLB and MLB Players Association joint committee to review the results of Torres’ testing.
“Essentially, the joint committee is waiting, because we’ve had so many tests done, waiting on some test results to still come back,” Boone said before the Yankees’ 1-0 victory over the Rays on Wednesday. “With all that’s going on with our team, out of an abundance of caution, we’re holding him out tonight.”
Boone added: “I know everyone’s going to read into that, but hopefully it’s nothing. It’s more just getting all the information.”
The Yankees have said that pitching coach Matt Blake, third-base coach Phil Nevin and first-base coach Reggie Willits have tested positive for COVID-19.
Six of the seven people who have tested positive are asymptomatic, Boone said, adding that a number of test results were pending. All seven people who tested positive were vaccinated for COVID-19.
“I think one of the things we’re seeing is that being vaccinated en masse like we are, we’re seeing the vaccinations also kind of blunt the effects of the virus,” Boone said. “I feel like in a lot of ways, because we’re vaccinated, we’re kind of good and able to deal with this. So there’s a little bit of a frustrating part there, in all the testing that we’re going to do.”
All members of the Yankees’ traveling party have been tested at least three times each since Tuesday.
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