LOS ANGELES — They swung for the fences once they signed Manny Machado as a free agent before the 2019 season. However the San Diego Padres weren’t yet able to win.
They swung hard again once they traded for Mike Clevinger within the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Didn’t work.
Undeterred, they took a couple of more hacks and dealt for top-flight starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell all before the 2021 season. No dice.
The Padres have chased, raced, hunted, pursued, hounded, tracked and trailed their would-be rivals to the north for what looks as if an eternity. Still, they’ve not found out the trail across the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, they get one other probability
Due to the taffy pull of baseball’s expanded postseason, the Padres again were allowed an even-steven start with the Dodgers to start this National League division series. Regardless of that the Dodgers won 14 of 19 against the Padres this 12 months, outscored them cumulatively, 109-47, and finished 22 games in front of them within the N.L. West.
“Look, we played these guys so much this 12 months, they usually’ve handed to us,” Padres Manager Bob Melvin said before Game 1 here on Tuesday. “So we would really like to think it’s our turn so far as winning a series against them.
“It’s 0-0, and after a unbelievable season they’ve had, which, give them credit, they played great all 12 months long, we’re back to even. It’s just attempting to make the most, win a series for the primary time this 12 months. Perhaps a few of the series that we played against them before, we took it on the chin. Perhaps that motivates you just a little more.”
Not long after he uttered those words, the Padres showed they still had the glass chin in a 5-3 Game 1 loss and located themselves within the familiar position of trailing the Dodgers yet again.
At the least, the Padres thought, they’d Yu Darvish in line to begin Game 2 in an effort to even the series on Wednesday night before heading home for Game 3 Friday and the eagerly anticipated first postseason series in front of fans in Petco Park since 2006.
“I feel like we’ve got the utmost confidence in him,” said the slugger Josh Bell, who, together with the superstar Juan Soto, arrived in San Diego at this 12 months’s trading deadline because the Padres dialed up a blockbuster for a fourth consecutive 12 months, sights set squarely on the Dodgers. “The last eight, 10 starts, he’s been absolutely incredible.
“He’s exactly what we’d like to get entering into the proper direction.”
Earlier this summer, San Diego’s owner, Peter Seidler, memorably referred to the Dodgers as “the dragon up the freeway that we’re attempting to slay.”
Just like the Padres, Darvish carries his own set of scars.
He called Dodger Stadium home for half a season after Los Angeles acquired him from Texas on the trade deadline in 2017. He was pretty good over nine starts (4-3, 3.44 E.R.A.) after which in two playoff starts, but he was bludgeoned by the Houston Astros in that 12 months’s World Series. He was the losing pitcher in Game 3 after surrendering 4 runs and 6 hits in only one and two-thirds innings in Houston, where trash cans banged throughout the cheating scandal. Then he did not make it out of the second inning in a Game 7 loss in Dodger Stadium.
“Obviously, the stadium hasn’t modified,” Darvish, who was 0-2 with a 21.60 E.R.A. in that World Series and was subjected to ugly boos and catcalls by the top of it, said through a translator at Dodger Stadium. “Not much has modified here. But as for myself, I feel like I’m a unique pitcher from back then.”
Asked for specifics, Darvish, who was 16-8 with a 3.10 E.R.A. and pitched six or more innings in 23 consecutive starts to complete the season, replied in additional general terms.
“I feel it comes with age, you already know, going through experience needless to say,” he said. “You undergo that have in 2017, and there’s so much to learn from that. That helps you grow to turn out to be a greater pitcher.”
There was some thought that for the reason that Dodgers hadn’t played in six days after being awarded a bye through the wild-card round, that perhaps they might be a bit rusty. Perhaps their timing could be off.
So six pitches into the underside of the primary in Game 1, shortstop Trea Turner creamed a meaty Clevinger fastball, depositing it over the left field fence. Later in the primary, Will Smith ripped a double and Max Muncy followed with an R.B.I. single.
There also was the very real possibility that the Padres would have sustainable momentum after dispatching the Mets over the weekend. As a substitute, the Dodgers scored twice before the Padres even had successful — then tacked on three more runs in the underside of the third.
But 4 Padres relievers combined to throw five and a 3rd scoreless innings, setting down the last 14 Dodgers in a row. And so they had the tying run on base within the sixth when Los Angeles second baseman Gavin Lux ranged to his left to make a lovely play on a Wil Myers smash to begin an inning-ending double play.
“Implausible,” Melvin said of the relief work. “It’s 5-0 and swiftly it’s 5-3, and our guys got here in and shut it down. We got the tying run to the plate within the ninth inning. No moral victories, however the latter a part of the sport was higher than the primary part for us.”
Still, as they keep coming back for more in their very own personal game of Dungeons and Dragons, the Padres can’t fight their way out of the dungeon while the dragon keeps respiratory more fire.
Sooner or later, it becomes the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals. One side dazzles and toys with the opposite. One side’s lot in life is to play the foil.
Because the longest-tenured Padre, Myers, acquired from Tampa Bay in a three-way trade before the 2015 season, admits that it seems as if he’s been chasing the Dodgers perpetually.
“It does,” Myers said. “It definitely looks like that. Obviously, they’ve had quite a lot of great years they usually’ve had quite a lot of wins against me. But I’ll say this: If we win this series, none of that may matter. So let’s win this one.”
Each games at Petco Park this weekend are sold out. The Padres feel that in the event that they can send this series back there at 1-1, their victory-starved fans who can’t help but have developed an inferiority complex after watching the Dodgers win nine of the past 10 N.L. West crowns, will likely be way more raucous than if the Padres return one game from elimination.
After beating the Mets in Citi Field and now playing in Dodger Stadium, the Padres definitely have seen what October life is like on the opposite side. The sellout crowd of 52,407 in Los Angeles on Tuesday was earsplitting at times. There doesn’t appear to be any complacency here for a team that set a franchise record with 111 wins this season.
“That’s probably the funnest a part of the night, to be honest,” Clevinger said of the roaring atmosphere. “The execution wasn’t the fun a part of the night.”
It’s been a rough time for Clevinger, who, in 4 starts against the Dodgers this 12 months, now’s 0-3 with a ten.34 E.R.A. And in 2020, five weeks after the Padres acquired him from Cleveland for the stretch run of that pandemic-shortened season, he began Game 1 of a division series against the Dodgers. But, battling a sore arm, he departed after only 26 pitches. The Dodgers swept the Padres in three games and Clevinger wound up having Tommy John surgery that November.
Two years later, because the Padres proceed chasing the Dodgers, Clevinger is playing an enormous role in two playoff series. He got here to San Diego in a nine-player deal, and as he began Game 1 on Tuesday, Cleveland was playing in Yankee Stadium with several pieces from that nine-player deal: First baseman Josh Naylor and catcher Austin Hedges were each within the Guardians’ starting lineup while Cal Quantrill was their starting pitcher. Owen Miller pinch-hit, and Gabriel Arias is projected to be Cleveland’s starting shortstop as soon as next 12 months.
In all, the Padres sent three of their top 10 prospects on the time to Cleveland.
And still, they haven’t caught the Dodgers.