The rivalry between the teams was a one-sided affair for many years. After an offseason arms race, it s become the most interesting one in baseball San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr (23) steals second base ahead of the tag by Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor during a game last month. Photograph: Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports If you ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, they may deny that they have a rivalry with the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers, after all, have won the NL West for the last eight seasons while the San Diego Padres 2020 postseason appearance was their first since 2006. That was three presidents ago. However, their first two series this season have made it obvious that if the teams weren t rivals before, they sure are now. It was 16 April, the first regular-season game between the two teams in 2021, when Dodgers pitcher Dennis Santana hit Padres batter Jorge Mateo in extra innings, sparking a bench-clearing brawl. The Dodgers won the battle that day, battering the Padres not in a fight but where it really counts: on the scoreboard. They won 11-6 in the 12th inning thanks to a rally-starting Corey Seager home run. The Dodgers flair for the dramatic didn t stop there. In their next game, Mookie Betts made a ridiculous game-saving catch to preserve a 2-0 LA lead. The prohibitive World Series favorites looked like they were in control. Since then, however, the Padres have won four of the five games between the two clubs. The bad blood has become worse in the meantime. When San Diego s Fernando Tatis Jr hit a home run against Trevor Bauer on 24 April, the third game of a thrilling and exhausting four-game series, he covered one of his eyes as he ran the bases, something which got under the skin of the other team. Why? Well, Bauer, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, took to pitching with one eye closed during the preseason as part of his ongoing project to get people to pay attention to him. Opposing batters, as one can imagine, did not take kindly to this, particularly after Bauer ended up plunking Seattle Mariners third baseman Ty France. So when Tatis took him deep, he relished the opportunity to engage in some mockery. In true I m not mad, this is funny fashion, Bauer responded with a long video saying he didn t have a problem with Tatis s celebration. He then, however, accused Tatis of stealing signs. This led to the two having an exchange on Twitter the night before the series finale, where the Padres won 8-7. They won t meet again until 21 June, and considering how much entertainment the two teams have already provided us, that s a date fans should have circled on their calendars. It s a shame we have to wait that long. Healthy rivalries make sports more exciting and that is particularly true in MLB. In the NFL, for instance, every game has a playoff atmosphere due to the league s short season. The leisurely pace of baseball, combined with the 162-game regular season, makes it impossible for teams to play at high intensity all the time. When one team has extra motivation to beat the other, it almost always makes for more entertaining games. Thanks to MLB s unbalanced schedule, this is particularly true with intra-divisional rivalries where teams, who already are battling each other for first place in the standings, face each other 19 times during the regular season. The teams get to know each other well, and we all know what familiarity breeds. It s no surprise that most of the league s marquee rivalries are between teams that share a division: the New York Yankees v the Boston Red Sox; the St Louis Cardinals v the Chicago Cubs; the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies; and, of course, the Dodgers against their traditional foe, the San Francisco Giants. In comparison, Dodgers-Padres isn t even worth a mention on the Wikipedia page of MLB rivalries. That s probably because the Padres don t have the most celebrated of histories. Since they began life as an expansion team in 1969, they have appeared in the World Series just twice, losing both times. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have won six championships since they relocated from Brooklyn (where they also won one, if you count that sort of thing). The Padres know that if they want more respect, they will have to earn it on the field. Making it to the playoffs last year was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they ended up getting swept in the National League division series by, who else, the soon-to-be world champion Dodgers. Undaunted, the Padres spent the offseason trying to build a team that could beat the Dodgers. First, the Padres traded for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to boost their starting rotation. A few months later, after the Dodgers signed Bauer to a three-year contract, the Padres signed Tatis Jr to a 14-year, $340m contract extension. It was a mammoth deal, but it was a sign that they were serious about creating a team that could remain competitive for years. Not only did these moves help both teams from a baseball perspective they also ensured that they would be two of the most fascinating teams of the season. The 22-year-old Tatis is an MVP caliber talent who could soon rival Betts as one of the best players in the game. Meanwhile, the talented-but-polarizing Bauer brings controversy everywhere he goes. It s not a coincidence that these two players have emerged at the center of one of the league s most intriguing storylines. If that weren t enough, there s one more interesting wrinkle: if you glanced at the NL West standings this weekend, you would notice that the Giants, not the Dodgers or the Padres, sat on top of what must be the toughest division in baseball. Just because Dodgers-Padres is getting all the attention doesn t mean that Dodgers-Giants has become any less heated. The battle for the best division in baseball may end up being a three-team race featuring two of the league s best rivalries. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, must be counting this as a positive development in a sport that has been struggling to keep fans these last few years.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. managed to one-up his Hall of Fame dad just 205 games into his own career.The Toronto Blue Jays first baseman broke out on Tuesday, slugging three home runs with seven RBI during a 9-5 victory over the Washington Nationals in Dunedin. Guerrero's father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., recorded 42 multi-homer games over his 16-year career - but never hit three.Guerrero Sr., who hit 449 home runs and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018, saluted his progeny on social media: Yes, another one Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) April 28, 2021 What a night for my boy. All the hard work is paying off. #VG27 Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) April 28, 2021 Besting his dad wasn't the only history Guerrero Jr. made on Tuesday. The 22-year-old is the youngest player since at least 1901 to record exactly three homers and seven RBIs in one game, according to MLB Stats, and he's also the seventh-youngest with a three-homer game. Youngest players with 3-HR game, MLB history:1955 Al Kaline: 20 y, 119 d1952 Eddie Mathews: 20 y, 350 d1930 Mel Ott: 21 y, 182 d1934 Hal Trosky: 21 y, 200 d1963 Boog Powell: 21 y, 358 d2016 Corey Seager: 22 y, 37 dToday Vlad Jr.: 22 y, 42 d Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 28, 2021 Two of Guerrero Jr.'s homers came off Max Scherzer. The Nationals ace is now one of two pitchers, alongside Ivan Nova, to have surrendered home runs to both Vlad Jr. and Sr., according to Sarah Langs of MLB.com. The elder Guerrero hit a pair off Scherzer in nine plate appearances.Guerrero Jr. now owns a .360/.484/.693 slash line this year, and his seven homers are tied for the American League lead.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Corey Seager rips a go-ahead two-run single to right field, scoring Chris Taylor and Matt Beaty giving the Dodgers a 5-3 lead in the 6th
The last time a full-season National League West race captured North America's interest and produced the game's two greatest win totals, the division was a much different neighborhood.On Sunday, Oct. 3, 1993, the Atlanta Braves - then in the NL West - beat the Colorado Rockies at home for their 104th win of the season. A couple thousand miles away at a sun-soaked Dodger Stadium, the Braves-Rockies score illuminated on the scoreboard, the Los Angeles Dodgers routed the San Francisco Giants, who finished in second place and missed the playoffs with 103 wins."The Giants lost the pennant, the Giants lost the pennant," wrote Tom Friend for The New York Times, noting it was 42 years to the day that Bobby Thomson's shot heard 'round the world lifted the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers.Los Angeles chased San Francisco rookie starting pitcher Salomon Torres from the game in the fourth inning, and Dave Burba fared no better in relief. Burba was in tears postgame in the cramped visitors' clubhouse."I was out of gas," Burba told reporters. "I normally throw 93, 92 miles per hour, but I'd like to see what my fastball was today. I'm lucky if it hit 88.""One of us had to lose and, unfortunately, it's always us or me," Giants left fielder Barry Bonds said, having lost to the Braves in the NLCS the previous two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.Will Clark, left, and Barry Bonds fell short of the postseason with the 1993 Giants. Vince Bucci / AFP / Getty ImagesIt was the last true pennant race of sorts, where a second-place team - no matter its record - would not advance to MLB's postseason. It was one of just four times a single division produced two 100-plus win teams. The most recent case was the 2018 Yankees, who had a better fate than the '93 Giants - they won their wild-card game against the 97-win Oakland Athletics.The 1993 campaign was also the last season before MLB realigned to three divisions per league and expanded the postseason to eight teams. The only NL West race since that's involved two 95-plus win clubs happened in 2002 when the Arizona Diamondbacks won 98 games and the Giants won 95. The Giants earned the NL's wild-card spot and defeated the Braves and Cardinals to advance to the World Series.Yes, it's early, but it looks like the Dodgers and San Diego Padres might give baseball one of the best NL West races since 1993, and perhaps one of the great races in divisional history. Both teams are that talented on paper, and the stakes are higher than in 2002 since the second-place finisher now faces the prospect of being one-and-done in the wild-card game (instituted in 2012). Sean M. Haffey / Getty ImagesOwners and players have begun labor talks again, with ESPN's Jeff Passan reporting that owners are again expected to pursue expanded playoffs. Between that and the historical context, the baseball world should savor this Dodgers-Padres race. There might not be another like it. Their second series of the season begins Thursday after a remarkable first encounter last weekend. The playoff field has already expanded a number of times. This past winter, players rebuffed the owners' interest in keeping the 16-team format from the COVID-19-shortened season. But in pro sports, playoff formats rarely contract. They almost always grow.While the Giants are also off to a good start, the Dodgers and Padres are still widely tabbed to be the top two teams in the sport. Entering play Wednesday, FanGraphs forecasts the Dodgers (102 wins) and Padres (94) to finish with the most wins in baseball. FiveThirtyEight also projects the Dodgers (107) and Padres (91) - tied with the Yankees (91) - to win the most and second-most games, though it sees the Dodgers as the only elite team.The Padres and Dodgers rank one-two in FanGraphs' projected starting-pitching WAR. Each starting staff is loaded after last winter's arms race. The Padres made significant trades to acquire Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, and Yu Darvish. The Dodgers signed free agent Trevor Bauer to join Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias. Ronald Martinez / Getty ImagesThe Dodgers rank first and Padres fourth in FanGraphs' projected shortstop WAR, and the Padres would rank higher if not for questions about the health of Fernando Tatis Jr.'s shoulder. Since last season, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is hitting about as well as any player in baseball. The Dodgers and Padres rank third and fourth in center-fielder projected production with a superstar in Cody Bellinger (when he returns from a stress fracture) and an emerging star in Padres center fielder Trent Grisham. We can go on and on, but the two teams are loaded.In their first meeting last weekend, the Dodgers and Padres gave all of those who were able to stay awake for the West Coast night games a treat. Some of the best players in baseball played at the highest level in a stadium energized by the return of fans. The series had a playoff-like feel, and it also seemed to signal a shift in power from the East Coast to the West, as the Dodgers and Padres have amassed as much talent as any clubs in the sport.In addition to their major-league roster, the Padres also possess a consensus top-10 farm system, while the Dodgers are lauded as a model organization from top to bottom with the ability to run payrolls as large as any club.Yet the sport is at risk of watering down such in-season meetings.Baseball, like other sports, is attempting to grow postseason revenues while trying to maintain the integrity of regular-season play. Baseball purists argue the playoff field is already too large. Cooper Neill / MLB / Getty ImagesIn last year's expanded playoff, the Padres were a No. 4 seed and advanced from the best-of-three first round to face the Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series. The format was more like an NBA postseason than a traditional baseball one. It's unclear what MLB wants an expanded playoff format to look like in 2022, and what players might agree to.Would baseball's parties really agree to permanently allow more than half of its current 30 teams into the playoffs after a 162-game season?There's long been a push to expand the wild card from a single game to a short series. Some have suggested a best-of-three series, possibly including a doubleheader. Proponents include former Cubs executive Theo Epstein, who now works in the MLB office. In South Korea, the KBO uses a best-of-two wild-card format where the team with the better record must win just once to advance, and the lower-seeded team must win twice.Like the NBA, would MLB consider assigning playoff seeding by record instead of ranking the division winners as the top three seeds? While playoff expansion could jeopardize what we think of as a traditional pennant or division race, a format that allows more of the best teams into the field would arguably add value to regular-season play, not subtract it. Expanding to an NBA-style format, however, would represent a radical break from the historical importance of winning a league or division.If the Dodgers and Padres finish as elite teams and one falls into a play-in game, there could be added pressure to change the system with labor talks likely ongoing, just as 1993's results colored decisions about the 1994 season.There is potential for Dodgers-Padres to be a great postseason race, with two elite teams fighting for one important spot. The season is young, and both teams still have a long way to go, but the rosters suggest this could be a fun chase to follow - and one of the last of its kind before the playoff field expands yet again.Travis Sawchik is theScore's senior baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter at @Travis_Sawchik.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Julio Ur as spun an absolute gem Tuesday evening against the Seattle Mariners, pitching seven shutout innings while striking out 11 and giving up just one hit. The Los Angeles Dodgers would end up winning 1-0 thanks to an RBI from Corey Seager.