ARLINGTON, Texas – The San Diego Padres have already had a grand time in the new Texas ballpark. They are back there after a lot of postseason relief with another chance to overtake the NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
San Diego in mid-August became the first MLB team to hit grand slams in four consecutive games — all against the Rangers, two at new Globe Life Field before the series switched to the West Coast. That also started a seven-game winning streak.
“We just started clicking from that moment on,” said Fernando Tatis Jr., the budding 21-year-old superstar whose second homer in that series opener was the first slam — on a 3-0 pitch and already with a seven-run lead in the eighth inning.
“This is kind of where we really got hot," said right fielder Wil Myers, who hit a slam in the first inning of the second game in Texas, where the Padres had arrived on a five-game losing streak.
With AL playoff games at the home parks of the Padres and Dodgers about 1,400 miles away, San Diego and Los Angeles open their best-of-five National League Division Series in Arlington on Tuesday night.
More than the slams, that August winning streak pushed the Padres into second place in the NL West. That's where they stayed, with the Dodgers winning their eighth consecutive NL West title, including the last two head-to-head meetings three weeks ago when a sweep by the Padres would have put them in the division lead.
Trent Grisham had a tying homer off Clayton Kershaw in that series opener Sept. 14, posing briefly and then gesturing toward his teammates before an an exchange with the Dodgers dugout and then hopping onto the plate. The Padres had a five-run outburst an inning later in a 7-2 win that Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts referred to as a punch in the mouth that they responded to after that.
“We just had a talk among ourselves. And, you know, we were able to come back out and play the game that we always do,” Betts said Monday. “It was definitely a good thing. I’m glad it happened at the time."
The Dodgers, who eliminated Milwaukee in the first round after finishing six games ahead in the NL West, are set with Walker Buehler to start Game 1 of the NLDS. Kershaw, who is from nearby Dallas, goes in Game 2.
San Diego still hasn't named a starter, or even said if Mike Clevinger (elbow impingement) and Dinelson Lamet (biceps tightness) will be back after being left off their 28-man roster for the wild card series.
“Obviously, those are two of their better starters. ... We’re preparing for both those guys until we don’t have to,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Without them, the Padres still got their first postseason series win in 22 years. They became the first team ever to use eight or more pitchers in three straight postseason games, with nine relievers combining on a four-hit shutout in the Game 3 clincher against St. Louis. That was the most pitchers used in a nine-inning shutout in any big league game since at least 1901.
The Dodgers won six of the 10 games in the regular season series against the Padres that got chippy at times, from some home plate collisions to Grisham’s pose after homing off the three-time NL Cy Young winner.
“I feel like every series that we played during the regular season was playoff baseball,” Tatis said. “We feel like we just get the best out of each out. They’re a great ball club, we’re a great club, so I feel like we’re just going to go out there and shows who’s the best this year.”
Buehler had a no-decision in his only start against the Padres this season, allowing three runs over five innings on Aug. 3. He started the playoff opener last week against Milwaukee, and came out in the fourth inning because of a blister on his right index finger.
Buehler said Monday he's heard of many at-home remedies, and that it was “the same as it has been” and he was ready to pitch.
Speaking before Monday's workout, Padres rookie manager Jayce Tingler said Clevinger and Lamet had good days Sunday and expressed being “really encouraged” about their progress since getting hurt in the last regular season series.
“It seems like I’ve said that maybe five, six, seven days ago. So I’m always a little bit hesitant,” Tingler said. “We’ll have a good day and then we’ll have, like I said yesterday, a half step back. But we’re hoping to stack some good days together.”
Globe Life Field will also host the NL Championship Series and World Series in this most unusual season because of the pandemic. San Diego was 2-0 and Los Angeles 2-1 there in the regular season against the last-place Rangers.
WORKED WITH WOODY
In Arlington, Roberts is using the office of Chris Woodward, the Dodgers' third base coach when they went to the World Series in 2017 and 2018. He was welcomed by a note from Woodward wishing him luck, along with some family photos.
Tingler was on Woodward's staff in Texas last season, when still playing in the ballpark across the street.
“I’ve only been in here for two games, just as many as all our players,” Tingler said. "It may be different, honestly, if it was at the old ballpark where obviously I’ve spent a lot of time."
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