Dodgers-Padres was meant to be a one-season battle for the National League West title. Instead, it could be the NL Wild Card Game match on October 6.
As the two teams open a three-game weekend streak Friday night at Dodger Stadium, LA does indeed have a battle on its hands to win a ninth straight division title. But that challenge did not come from San Diego but from San Francisco, which leads its big rival by 2 1/2 games for the best record in the NL. The Padres, meanwhile, have come out of the division race and have only one game lead over the Reds for second place in the NL Wild Card, which would result in a win-win game with the Giants or the Dodgers.
But there’s still quite a bit of baseball to be played before then, starting with the opening of the Friday night series, which fans can stream at 10:10 p.m. ET, as one of two free games of the day. from MLB.TV, after the Yankees-Mets at 7:10 a.m. (Prohibited restrictions apply). Here’s what you need to know about the match-up:
How they do
Padres (74-65, 3rd in Newfoundland and Labrador West)
Dodgers (88-53, 2nd at NL West)
The Dodgers played terrific baseball, although that wasn’t enough to put the Giants in the rearview mirror. They were 23-6 from August 7 to September 7. 7, a streak that included a three-game sweep in San Diego (Aug. 24-26), with a 16-end marathon in the middle of the game. However, LA lost its last two games in St. Louis before this series, its first straight losses since July 29-30.
The Padres are still 7-6 against the Dodgers in 2021, with six games to go. (They also meet at Dodger Stadium September 28-30). But few things have come easily for the Brothers. From leading the division by game and a half until May 29, San Diego has grown to 40-46, including 8-16 since Aug. 11.
No pitcher has started more games his team have won this season than Urias (21, including six in a row). It’s a lot about the quality of the Dodgers and also the quality of Urias, allowing no more than two earned runs 19 times. When he faced the Padres on August 24 at Petco Park, he allowed just one hit in five innings.
The player to watch
Who is more watchable than the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr.? The 22-year-old’s career is off to a historic start, and although shoulder issues have reduced his playing time, he could still be the favorite for NL MVP honors. In his most recent game (Wednesday against the Angels), Tatis led the NL in home runs (37), slugging (.628) and WAR for positional players (5.8), according to Baseball-Reference, and a finished second in park-adjusted OPS + (172) to Bryce Harper.
It’s more than just production, of course. In his young career, Tatis played with joy and flair, performing electric games on the bases and on the field. And now he’s learning a new position on the fly, playing exclusively in right field and center field since his last return to the roster on August 15. On Wednesday night he recorded the Padres’ fastest assist of the season, hitting the plate at 97 mph.
Do not forget it
It looks like it’s been a disappointing season for the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, who have been assaulted and haven’t looked their best for long stretches. Betts himself has expressed his frustration.
But it’s also true that most players would love to have this kind of season. Betts have always been well above average at plate, scoring .374 OBP and .499 slugging, and he’s still capable of changing a game with his bat, legs, glove or arm.
Manny Machado is a third baseman, but that’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at it. It’s modern, heavy baseball, and Machado is a talented athlete. Put these things together, and you get the Double Gold Glove Award winner making coins everywhere, including at the bottom of the right field line. “It’s about getting 27 strikeouts,” Machado said. “And if I can steal a few over there, that will be good for the team.”
This graph, which shows the ball landing points Machado has lined up for strikeouts as a third baseman since early 2020, tells the story of Machado’s traveling defense.
The Dodgers added a serious shake to their roster when they acquired Trea Turner – along with Max Scherzer – from the Nationals on the trade deadline. Statcast sprint speed measures how fast a player is moving at his peak, and Turner’s 30.6 fps average ranks just behind injured Yankees outfielder Tim Locastro (30.7 fps) among more than 500 qualifiers. (The MLB average is 27 fps, and over 30 fps are considered elite).
Another way to appreciate Turner is through Bolts, a Statcast term for an individual base-run game in which the runner hits that 30 fps mark. Turner 108 bolts this year, until Wednesday, they were 47 more than any other player at that time.