LOS ANGELES -- The Padres and Dodgers won't meet again until June, but before their hiatus, they added one final thriller on Sunday night, making it 7-for-7 –- seven games, seven nights of must-see TV.
"[It's] the biggest rivalry in baseball," said Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. "Everybody can feel it; everybody can see it. Just the games that we’re playing -- it’s a blessing to be a part of it."
It’s only April, and these two teams already have created a full season's worth of highlights. Here's a ranking of the best moments:
1. Mookie’s game-winning catch
In a series that had just about everything, Mookie Betts’ game-winning catch on April 17 at Petco Park tops them all. With the Dodgers holding a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning, Tommy Pham hit a hard liner to right-center field. For a couple of seconds, it looked as though the ball was going to land on the outfield grass, sending the game into extra innings for a second consecutive night. But Betts showed off his Gold Glove-caliber defense, fully laying out and making one of the most dramatic catches you’ll see all season. The degree of difficulty in a crucial moment is what separates Betts’ play. Per Statcast, Betts had a 10% chance to make the catch, having to travel 52 feet in 3.3 seconds, making it a five-star play.
2. Cronenworth to Tatis to Hosmer
The wildest part of the game-changing double play that the Padres turned in the eighth inning on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium was the sheer number of ways it could've gone wrong. Sheldon Neuse hit a rocket that Jake Cronenworth managed to knock down at second base. He cooly picked up the ball with his bare hand, then flipped to Tatis -- who used every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to stretch and receive it. Then Tatis pivoted and fired an 87 mph missile to first baseman Eric Hosmer, who stretched just enough to get Neuse by half an inch. The Padres escaped their bases-loaded jam and won the game by a run.
3. Like father, like son
It took a while for Tatis to impose himself on the rivalry this season. But when he did, he did so in a big way. Twenty-two years to the day his father made history by launching a pair of grand slams in the same inning at Dodger Stadium, Tatis himself hit homers in consecutive at-bats against Clayton Kershaw on Friday night. In Dodger Stadium history, only two players have authored multi-homer games on April 23: Tatis Jr. and Tatis Sr.
4. Super-utility men
The first game between these two teams this season on April 16 at Petco Park was a 12-inning thriller that fully exhausted the San Diego bullpen. When Tim Hill ran out of gas in the 12th, the Padres were out of pitchers. So they turned to Cronenworth -- a two-way player in college and the Minors who hadn't pitched an inning in the bigs. Cronenworth struck out out Betts for his first career K. But the most "weird baseball" moment from the entire season series took place one batter earlier. Both the Padres and Dodgers had emptied their benches. Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove needed to play left field when Cronenworth entered to pitch. Dodgers left-hander David Price hit for himself. Sure enough, Price lined Cronenworth's offering directly to left fielder Joe Musgrove for a sacrifice fly.
5. Padres’ furious comeback
The Dodgers raced out to a 7-1 lead on Sunday Night Baseball in L.A. But there’s not much quit in these Padres, and they proved it again. San Diego staged a frantic late rally, scoring two runs apiece in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Manny Machado tied the game with a single that plated Tatis Jr., and Hosmer won it with a go-ahead sac fly in the 11th. But the game’s defining moment may have come in the 10th, when -- with both teams devoid of bench pieces -- left-handed starters Ryan Weathers and Kershaw were called upon to hit with the would-be winning run at third base. Both struck out.
6. Tatis gets ‘payback,’ celebrates like Bauer
Trevor Bauer held Tatis hitless last weekend at Petco Park. Tatis said it was “payback time” on Saturday night. And did Tatis ever get his payback. He launched two home runs against Bauer, then mimicked two of Bauer’s signature celebrations. While rounding first base after hitting the first home run, Tatis covered one eye -- a nod to Bauer pitching with one eye closed against the Padres during Spring Training. Then, after touching home plate on the second, Tatis strutted a la MMA’s Conor McGregor -- one of Bauer’s personal favorites.
7. Seager’s game-winning homer
The April 16 game at Petco Park was the early game of the year, and it’s not particularly close. Both teams exchanged body blows throughout the night, but it was Corey Seager who delivered the knockout punch. Seager jumped on the first pitch he saw from Hill in the top of the 12th inning, crushing a two-run homer to give the Dodgers an 8-6 lead. The Dodgers ultimately scored five runs in the frame, but it was Seager’s blast that set the tone.
8. Benches clear after Mateo plunked
Price played in the historic Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and said that a rivalry doesn’t truly start until you have the first benches-clearing incident. It took just 10 innings for the bad blood to take center stage for the Dodgers and Padres. With the potential game-winning run at third base, Dennis Santana unintentionally hit Jorge Mateo on the first pitch of the plate appearance. Mateo took exception to the pitch, and the two players exchanged some words as the Padres player walked down the first-base line. Seconds later, both benches and bullpens cleared. The Dodgers tried to downplay the rivalry leading up to the first series against the Padres. But the benches-clearing incident made it clear: These two teams don’t like each other.
9. Kershaw’s RBI walk against Darvish
If the designated hitter ever makes its way back to the National League, Padres ace Yu Darvish certainly won’t miss seeing Dodgers ace Kershaw standing in the box. So far this season, Darvish has had all kinds of issues trying to retire Kershaw, who has admitted that all he’s trying to do against the Padres’ ace is be a pest and make him throw as many pitches as possible. Whatever Kershaw is doing seems to be working. Kershaw has recorded a hit off Darvish already this season, but his best plate appearance of the season resulted in a bases-loaded, nine-pitch walk to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead on April 17 at Petco Park. Kershaw fought off multiple cutters before Darvish walked him on a pitch that was just low. Ironically enough, Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher to draw a bases-loaded walk since Darvish did it in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Cubs in 2017.
10. Machado's gem at third base
Machado has gobbled up just about everything hit his way this weekend. But he hasn't made a bigger defensive play than the one he made Friday night at Dodger Stadium. The Padres opted to let Darvish face Betts with the tying runs aboard in the seventh inning. Betts hit a laser to third base, but Machado -- who has been booed mercilessly in L.A. this weekend -- laid out for a brilliant diving grab, ending the inning. They still booed him afterward – but with a little bit less gusto behind it.