'Complete identity game': Padres punch back in hard-fought Seoul finale

March 21st, 2024

SEOUL -- After all the talk this week of Korean fans’ historic love for the Dodgers over the years, the Ha-Seong Kim-led Padres took full advantage of this opportunity to make a big impression on the nation, with Thursday’s 15-run outburst representing their highest run total scored in a game against the Dodgers. Ever.

“We've got to come here more,” joked.

The 15,928 in attendance at the Gocheok Sky Dome on Thursday certainly got all the baseball they could handle, featuring three hours and 42 minutes of nonstop action, that record output from the Padres’ offense, a six-RBI game’s worth of Mookie Magic on the other side and the most runs scored in any Dodgers-Padres matchup.

From that chaos emerged the victorious Padres, who secured a split of the two-game Seoul Series with their wild 15-11 triumph on Thursday night.

“It was crazy,” Fernando Tatís Jr. said. “My legs are barking right now. But it was a great game. I feel like we answered back every single time. We never felt down, we never felt out of the game. This win definitely set the tone for the rest of the season.”

If the Padres’ takeaway from Wednesday night’s loss was that they were more than capable of going blow for blow with the Dodgers for nine innings -- barring an odd equipment mishap -- their emphatic answer on Thursday only reinforced that belief.

Though the Dodgers came to the Gocheok Sky Dome with their Shohei Ohtani-boosted lineup and their shiny new $325 million ace, the Padres were instead the ones to apply the all-out pressure, booting Yoshinobu Yamamoto with a five-run first inning before adding on, then holding on for dear life, then seeing finally deliver the decisive blow with a three-run blast in the top of the ninth.

“Complete identity game,” Padres manager Mike Shildt said. “A lot of courage, a lot of toughness, a lot of fight. To have that kind of game, especially after coming back from a tough one yesterday, to come back and fight like we did tonight, and keep going when they kept coming back at us like a heavyweight fight -- winning feels good, it does. A big identity game for our group. We talk about that a lot.”

Yes, the Dodgers applied the counter-pressure that was inevitable given the nature of their lineup, scoring in six of the nine innings, but thanks to multihit efforts from six Padres hitters, San Diego also plated runs in six different frames, led by a 4-for-4, four-RBI game from , whose glove was the culprit in Wednesday night’s pivotal play.

“Yesterday, we had a really tough loss, and today, we could have just gone through the motions,” Bogaerts said. “We're facing one of the best arms they have over there. We got him out of there right after that first inning.”

It was, fittingly, Cronenworth who provided the biggest blow in that big first frame, during which the Padres’ first four hitters reached base, including a two-run triple by Cronenworth into the right-field corner. San Diego coaxed 43 pitches out of Yamamoto to spoil his highly anticipated debut after just one frame.

In a further note of promise, the bottom of the lineup paved the Padres’ next big outburst in their four-run third inning, featuring knocks from Tyler Wade -- the current beneficiary of San Diego’s uncertain third-base situation -- and the first career knock for Jackson Merrill. The rookie later added a ringing double that barely missed leaving the yard and became the third player to find his first MLB knock outside of North America, joining Tarrik Brock (Cubs, 2000) and Yoenis Céspedes (A's, 2012), per Elias Sports Bureau.

Ultimately, the Padres needed almost all of that offense to overcome a gargantuan effort from Mookie Betts, who fell a triple shy of the cycle in a four-hit, six-RBI game -- and this effort felt representative of the kind of performances it’ll take to keep pace with the Dodgers in the battle for the National League West.

It’s a small sample size -- but the Padres like what they see much more so far this year.

“Listen, it's two good teams going at each other,” Shildt said. “Hard-fought yesterday, hard-fought today. … Clearly, good games, and we did our part for sure. We're going to continue to just play how we play the game, play Padre baseball.”

“All the hard work that we've done all Spring Training with all the little things have been paying off,” Machado said. “As a group, we're going to continue to hold each other accountable to keep that level.”