Trent Grisham made a rivalry with one swing 

This is baseball played to the max

September 15th, 2020

When the Dodgers and Giants square off, you know there’s bad blood. It’s perhaps the most passionate rivalry in baseball, one that has held on for over a century and traversed both coasts.

But despite being so much closer, geographically, to San Diego -- it’s a short two-hour drive down the 5 (except with traffic, and there’s always traffic), the Dodgers have never been that kind of heat with the Padres. Maybe it’s because San Diego is known for its constant pleasant weather, its surf, its California burritos stuffed with french fries. Or, perhaps it’s because the Padres have historically not been very good.

That all changed on Monday night with one massive swing from 23-year-old Trent Grisham.

If you tuned into the game, you knew there was something special in the air. Even without fans in the stadium, the game had the intensity of a postseason battle.

Dinelson Lamet proved his ace-hood, as he stepped up to the moment and pumped in three fastballs in triple digits -- he had only thrown two fastballs over 100 mph all season before that.

His slider was sharp, biting out of the zone and racking up all 11 of his strikeouts on the wipeout pitch.

Clayton Kershaw put a little more oomph on his pitches, too, averaging an extra half-mile on his fastball than he had in the rest of the season.

This wasn’t some quiet September baseball game, this was a cage match -- two teams enter, only one leaves.

That was all before Grisham came to the plate and connected on Kershaw’s 2-1 fastball, sending it over the right-field wall and tying the game at 1. He paused to watch the ball soar, he turned to his dugout and let loose a tremendous yawp as he threw his bat to the ground. This was emphatic, big-game stuff.

Facing a no-doubt, first-ballot future Hall of Famer -- one who was on top of his game -- in a tight divisional race, how else should he react? Even an animatron programmed to hit baseballs would suddenly feel a spark of emotion in its computer chip heart.

Grisham’s hubris upset the Dodgers, and the teams chirped at each other as he rounded the bases, leading to a defiant stomp on home plate that looked a lot like a kid finishing a round of hopscotch.

It was on. The Dodgers were angry -- with manager Dave Roberts making it quite clear that he didn’t like how Grisham celebrated his home run.

“I don’t mind guys admiring a homer; certainly it’s a big game, big hit,” Roberts said after the game. “Really like the player. But I just felt to overstay at home plate, against a guy like Clayton, who’s got the respect of everyone in the big leagues for what he’s done in this game, I just took exception to that. There’s a certain respect that you give a guy if you homer against him.”

Now, the Dodgers could have used that anger as fuel -- if you don’t like it when people hit homers, throw better pitches, the old saying goes -- but instead they collapsed. The Padres raced around the bases in an exciting, five-run seventh inning spurred on by three defensive miscues, celebrating along the way.

If this is the result of Grisham’s home run and celebration, why would the Padres ever stop?

But this is also who the Padres are. They’re young, they’re brash, they’re bold in brown and yellow. They’re Slam Diego, never seeing a bases loaded situation where they aren’t aiming for the downs.

They are everyone’s favorite villain, the wrestling heel who fans can’t help but root for, and they're a curse for those who can’t stand baseball played to the max.

After Fernando Tatis Jr. broke the "unwritten rules" with his grand slam on a 3-0 count against the Rangers, Texas went into a 3-17 tailspin.

While other front offices preach patience, looking to the future and what the farm system can provide, GM A.J. Preller pushed the chips in. He signed Manny Machado a year before the team was ready to compete and then made roughly a dozen trades at the Deadline when the postseason field was wide open. It’s not an accident or a coincidence that the Padres have won nine games in a row and terrify opposing teams now, you know.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have been the class of the sport, winning seven consecutive NL West titles, and seem incensed that a new challenger is daring to take aim at their crown. They have three MVPs on their roster in Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, and Mookie Betts. They are still a baseball goliath, one that's carrying an 0-fer in World Series attempts on its shoulders. With as much financial might as a small nation and a farm system stocked with some of the best talent in the sport, there is no window closing in Los Angeles.

But San Diego is certainly happy to make the Dodgers earn their annual postseason berth -- this year and into the future.

With only 1.5 games separating the two teams in the division and two more games left in their season series that continues tonight, the battle is on. A new rivalry has emerged. This is must-watch baseball.