Dodgers fall in 11-inning thriller after Padres rally from six-run deficit

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: (L-R) Eric Hosmer #30, Manny Machado #13, Victor Caratini #8 and Mark Melancon #33 of the San Diego Padres celebrate an 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in eleventh innings at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A postseason game wasn’t played as the sun sparkled, set and vanished, making way for a chilly night at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. It just felt like baseball suited for October.

Game 7 of the 19-game season series between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres produced the energy, oddities and stomach-churning drama that captivated audiences in each of the first six matchups — aptly split evenly between the clubs.

Sunday’s bout included a blown six-run lead, 12 relievers, 422 pitches and two pitchers-turned-pinch-hitters over four hours and 59 minutes. There were hearty boos from the 15,316 in attendance, wasted opportunities and, after 11 innings, an 8-7 comeback win for the Padres in the rivals’ final meeting until June 21.

The Padres (13-11) scored the winning run on Eric Hosmer’s sacrifice fly off Garrett Cleavinger after San Diego executed a double steal to put runners in scoring position.

Cleavinger was the fifth reliever to emerge from the Dodgers’ taxed bullpen, which didn’t have Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen or Scott Alexander available. David Price, the first reliever used, gave up two runs — one earned — in the seventh inning and didn’t reappear for the eighth because of a hamstring strain.

The shortage handcuffed the Dodgers (15-7) as they dropped the four-game set, three games to one, for their first series loss of the season after taking two of three from the Padres in San Diego last weekend. In all, the clubs have been separated by two or fewer runs in 61 1/2 innings across the seven games.

“I think the net is they outplayed us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

The Dodgers held a 7-1 lead Sunday upon Dustin May’s exit after six innings and entered the ninth leading 7-5. That margin vanished when Manny Machado, atop Dodger fans’ list of villains in brown and yellow, tied the score with an RBI single off Jimmy Nelson, who surrendered two runs on four singles.

Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor follows through to hit a three-run home run in front of Padres catcher Victor Caratini.
Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor follows through to hit a three-run home run in front of San Diego Padres catcher Victor Caratini during the sixth inning Sunday. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Nelson next walked Hosmer to load the bases but managed to keep the game tied by getting the next two batters out. The right-hander then escaped the 10th inning with runners on second and third unscathed.

“My command overall wasn’t up to my standard,” Nelson said.

The Dodgers, starting with a runner at second base, loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame against Tim Hill after the Padres elected to intentionally walk Max Muncy and Chris Taylor to bring up the pitcher’s spot.

Roberts’ bench was empty so he chose Clayton Kershaw to pinch-hit, and he struck out. DJ Peters, called up to the majors for the first time Friday, then swung at a 3-2 fastball out of the strike zone to squash the chance.

Pitcher Clayton Kershaw reacts while pinch hitting for the Dodgers with the bases loaded in the 10th inning Sunday.
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw reacts while pinch hitting for the Dodgers with the bases loaded in the 10th inning Sunday. (Harry How / Getty Images)

Austin Barnes walked to lead off the 11th inning to put two runners on base, but Edwin Ríos struck out, Mookie Betts flied out and Corey Seager grounded out to end the game.

“We need to take care of business,” Taylor said, “and win that one.”

The Dodgers chased Joe Musgrove, architect of the first no-hitter in Padres history earlier this season, after forcing him to throw 77 pitches in three innings. They loaded the bases twice against the right-hander and again in the fifth inning against reliever Craig Stammen but went one for seven with four strikeouts with the bases full. As a result, they scored just two runs through five innings.

They finally broke through in the sixth. Sheldon Neuse, pinch-hitting for May, clobbered the first pitch from left-hander Nick Ramirez for a leadoff home run. Justin Turner lifted a sacrifice fly for another run. Two batters, later, Taylor delivered the big blow, a three-run homer to give the Dodgers a six-run cushion.

To that point, the Padres’ only run came on Tatis’ fifth home run in three games to lead off the fourth inning against May. By the end of the day, Tatis, who added a stolen base and his league-leading ninth error Sunday, became the first person to ever collect at least five home runs and two steals in a road series.

His fourth home run of the series — and second home run Saturday night — was an impressive power display that became controversial by Sunday morning.

Padres teammates Fernando Tatis Jr., left, and Trent Grisham celebrate San Diego's win over the Dodgers on Sunday.
Padres teammates Fernando Tatis Jr., left, and Trent Grisham celebrate San Diego's win over the Dodgers on Sunday. (Harry How / Getty Images)

Trevor Bauer threw the shortstop a 3-2 slider off the plate outside in the sixth inning. Tatis reached out and cracked it over the wall in straightaway center field.

On Sunday, Bauer accused Tatis — on Twitter and in a video he posted on his YouTube channel — of peeking back at catcher Will Smith to know where Smith was positioned before pouncing on the pitch, further fueling the rivalry between National League West favorites.

Bauer said he welcomed the emotion in his video. But he ended it by saying Tatis crossed the line when he peered back at Smith. Roberts claimed he wasn’t aware the situation when asked before Sunday’s game.

Tatis didn’t appear to glance back at Barnes on Sunday. He finished two for four with two walks, two steals and the home run off May anyway. Otherwise, May was nearly untouchable.

The 23-year-old right-hander limited the Padres to the one run on two hits and a walk with a career-high 10 strikeouts to become the youngest Dodgers pitcher with double-digit strikeouts since Kershaw in September 2011. Five of the 10 strikeouts came on the curveball, a pitch he’s worked to master to increase his low strikeout rate from last season.

The Dodgers needed every bit of May’s dominance to have a chance to win. The bullpen, thanks in part to an error by Neuse at second base on a double-play ball, gave up four runs over the next two innings to shrink the margin entering the ninth. Nelson fumbled the rest and the Dodgers never led again.

“We just didn’t play good baseball,” Roberts said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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