Dodgers make statement, sweep revamped Padres
LOS ANGELES -- Entering the much-anticipated weekend series against the Padres, the Dodgers insisted they weren’t in the business of sending a message, throwing out just about every cliche in the book.
Well, whether they intended to or not, the Dodgers sent a loud and clear message that they’re still the team to beat in the National League, completing a three-game sweep over the Padres with a 4-0 win on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have won eight consecutive games.
“It definitely feels good,” said Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger. “With that, I think we’ve got nine more games against them and then potentially the playoffs. So, this was a great win, a great series. We can’t take anything for granted.”
After making a flurry of moves before the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline, the Padres became the talk of the baseball world. They improved their lineup significantly, adding superstar Juan Soto and All-Star Josh Bell, and acquiring elite closer Josh Hader. San Diego paired their new stars with one of the strongest rotations in the sport.
Most people believed the Padres, with their shiny additions, could now give the Dodgers a run for their money. That might still be the case -- these two teams play nine more times in the regular season and could meet up again in October -- but that’s not how things played out this weekend.
The Dodgers delivered the knockout punch early on Friday, scoring eight runs off left-hander Sean Manaea in the first three innings. On Saturday, manager Dave Roberts called it an “offensive clinic,” which ended with Max Muncy launching a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth off right-hander Mike Clevinger.
Muncy said he felt like the Dodgers’ lineup “has been forgotten about with a lot of this stuff that has been happening.” He added that it was “kinda nice” to remind people of their firepower, scoring 16 runs in the first two games against one of the best pitching staffs in the NL.
On Sunday, the Dodgers showed their lineup’s depth again, showing off why they have the best record in the Majors. Bellinger, who was hitting ninth, recorded his second multi-homer game of the season, both coming against the Padres. Perhaps most impressive for Bellinger is that both of his home runs were hit to the opposite field.
“You just don’t have time for error if you’re an opposing pitcher,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, when asked about Muncy and Bellinger starting to come around at the plate. “It’s a lineup that, with those guys performing, they can hurt you with one swing. … It’s just like we’re on their neck the whole game. When they make a mistake, we’re ready to capitalize.”
Bellinger’s two big swings were more than enough for left-hander Tyler Anderson, who tossed seven scoreless innings on Sunday. At the start of Spring Training, Anderson was slated to be a reliever. Now, Anderson was named an All-Star for the first time last month and improved to 13-1, lowering his ERA to 2.72 in the process.
Not only do the Dodgers have the best -- and arguably deepest -- lineup in the league, but they’ve also constructed a starting rotation that hasn’t shown any cracks this season. With the sweep, the Dodgers improved to 75-33 and have won 28 of their last 33 games.
“This series, we made pitches when we needed to,” Roberts said. “Cody obviously had a big day today and the long ball came into play today. But other days, we manufactured runs, which we did last night. Just having different ways to win ballgames makes us tough to prepare for.”
Despite the moves made by the Padres over the last two seasons, the Dodgers have been able to handle their division rival. The Dodgers have won 17 of their last 19 games against the Padres. This season, they’ve outscored San Diego 55-18.
They didn’t have intentions of sending a message. The Dodgers did it anyway.
“I think you guys knew going into this series, it was just another series for us,” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, who had two RBI singles. “We came out here and played the baseball we’ve been playing for two months now. When we play our kind of baseball, it’s tough to beat us.”