SAN DIEGO -- Before the start of the weekend series against the Padres, Corey Seager called it another matchup against a division opponent. Dave Roberts tried to pump the brakes on any talk of a rivalry between the Dodgers and Padres, saying there’s more to a rivalry than just geography.
The intensity at Petco Park on Friday told a different story. Before the first pitch was thrown, the limited-capacity sellout crowd of 15,250 had already started a pair of loud “Beat LA” chants. Good defensive plays and key strikeouts were received with larger emotions than most games played on April 16.
San Diego made a flurry of moves this past offseason, with its sights set on trying to dethrone Los Angeles atop the National League West standings. The Dodgers reminded the Padres that it won’t be easy, taking the series opener, 11-6, in a thrilling 12-inning game, extending their winning streak to seven.
“It was like a playoff game,” Roberts said. “The intensity was there. I can look up and down my lineup card and everybody contributed. It’s kind of like a playoff game. I’m just spent emotionally. Proud of everybody.”
With both teams trading jabs throughout the night, it was Seager and the Dodgers that delivered the knockout punch in the 12th. Seager jumped on the first pitch he saw from left-hander Tim Hill, crushing a two-run homer to give Los Angeles an 8-6 lead.
The Dodgers continued to add on, as Zach McKinstry and Luke Raley chipped in with RBI singles. Then, David Price (yes, David Price) plated a run with a sacrifice fly to left field off Jake Cronenworth (who moved from second base to the mound for San Diego) to make it 11-6.
“There’s a lot of intensity in this game,” said Raley, who hit his first career homer in the fifth. “And that was my first real taste of that, and it’s exciting. You have a rush the whole time, and it’s something I look forward to being a part of more.”
Even though it was the Dodgers' bats that delivered the big blows, relievers Dennis Santana and Price were the reasons why Los Angeles had an opportunity to win it in the 12th. Santana got out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th by striking out Fernando Tatis Jr. Price, who recorded his first career save on Thursday, got the win after tossing two scoreless innings.
“You hear about a player and teammate and performer, but when you see it like this, it’s just next level,” Roberts said of Price. “To finish the night off with that, he gets the save [Thursday], gets the win [Friday], it’s pretty impressive.”
The game had everything fans hoped for, and more. There were five lead changes and three ties. It also included some fireworks in the 10th inning after Santana hit Jorge Mateo, causing the benches and bullpens to clear in a hurry. Exactly what the rivalry was missing.
“All rivalries in baseball are really good, but once you get that first benches-clearing [moment], that’s when it kind of goes to that next level,” said Price, who was once part of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry during his time with Boston. “I’m sure we’ll be ready to play [Saturday] and so will they. I think we have [Clayton Kershaw] going, so we’ll be ready.”
While the Dodgers said all the right things externally in order to downplay the magnitude of the series, it’s no coincidence that they had Walker Buehler on the mound on Friday and will turn to Kershaw on Saturday and Trevor Bauer on Sunday. It’s also not by accident that Roberts was aggressive in using Blake Treinen, Victor González, Corey Knebel, Kenley Jansen, Santana and Price out of the bullpen.
On the other side, the Padres have Yu Darvish scheduled for Saturday and Blake Snell taking the bump on Sunday. Both teams are trying to send an early message to each other, and the first act this season was a classic.
If there was any doubt about these two teams being rivals, Friday night’s game put an end to that. The Dodgers-Padres rivalry has the star power, a division title potentially on the line and clearly no love lost between the teams after their heated NL Division Series last season. The baseball world will get to enjoy at least 18 more battles between two of the most talented teams in the Majors.
The first round went to the Dodgers.
“Tonight, yeah,” Roberts said. “It felt like a rivalry.”