Dodgers strike back, take nailbiter from Padres

May 7th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- One area where the Dodgers admittedly struggled last October was a lack of energy compared to what the Padres brought to the table in the National League Division Series.

It’s something the Dodgers had to sit and think about all winter while also watching the Padres make some splashy moves. Despite being the class of the NL West for over a decade, it felt like the Dodgers came into this season as the forgotten team in the division.

In the first meeting between the two NL West rivals, it was the Padres that delivered the first punch in front of a raucous home crowd. But on Saturday, the Dodgers showed more urgency and punched back, beating the Padres, 2-1, at Petco Park.

“I think that’s one of our strengths, is kind of going throughout this season and not getting too high, getting too low but having high expectations for ourselves,” said Dodgers bench coach Danny Lehmann, who served as acting manager while Dave Roberts attended his son’s college graduation.

The day started with Clayton Kershaw having to answer questions about a meme that was displayed on the Petco Park scoreboard after Friday’s game. It was an image of Kershaw sitting in the dugout with fake tears running down his face.

“If you don’t like it,” Kershaw said, “play better.”

The Dodgers did, indeed, play better on Saturday.

After a pair of erratic outings, was looking for a big bounce-back start and the right-hander delivered with, arguably, his best performance of the season, displaying much better command of all his pitches against an aggressive Padres lineup.

“That guy was tough on the mound today,” said Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. “When you have a guy like that, you’ve got to play pepper with it. There’s not much you can do. If he misses something, that’s when you take advantage. But he was making good pitches from the beginning of the game.”

May set the tone early as he skipped off the mound after striking out Juan Soto with a sinker right at the knees. The right-hander is usually animated, but there was a little extra gear on the mound on Saturday. May ended his night with six strikeouts and allowing just three hits over six scoreless innings.

“It was huge to go out and put up zeros for the guys and be able to come out with the lead and let the bullpen take over,” May said. “Played really good defense. Hit the ball when we needed to and it was a really good game.”

With May and the bullpen keeping the Padres in check, the Dodgers were able to get just enough offense against Blake Snell, who was solid once again against Los Angeles. Snell allowed just one hit over six innings, but it was a big one, as smacked a hanging changeup off the left-hander for a two-run homer in the fourth inning.

Taylor, who got off to another slow start at the plate, has been much more productive recently. Over his last five games, Taylor is 7-for-16 with a homer and five RBIs.

“I feel more comfortable in the box, more relaxed and I feel like I’m seeing the ball better,” Taylor said. “Just the comfort with everything and not trying to feel for something and then having results helps too.”

Whether each side wants to admit it or not, there was a different level of intensity on the field for a regular-season game being played on May 6. It’s what everyone should expect over the next 11 meetings between two teams that have talented rosters. This time, it was the Dodgers’ turn to edge out a close one.

“The atmosphere’s really good here,” Lehmann said. “It’s fun to play in. The players love it. … Today was a good day.”