A postseason game wasn’t played as the sun sparkled, set, and vanished, making way for a chilly night at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. It just felt like baseball suited for October.
Game 7 of the 19-game season series between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres produced the intensity, oddities and stomach-churning drama that captivated audiences in each of the first six matchups — aptly split evenly between the clubs.
Sunday’s bout featured a blown six-run lead, 12 relievers, 422 pitches and two pitchers used as pinch-hitters over nearly four hours and 59 minutes. There were hearty boos, wasted opportunities and, after 11 innings, an 8-7 comeback win for the Padres in the rivals’ final meeting until June 21.
The Padres (13-11) pushed the winning run across on Eric Hosmer’s sacrifice fly off Garrett Cleavinger, the fifth reliever to emerge from the Dodgers’ taxed bullpen, which didn’t have Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen or Scott Alexander available.
The Dodgers (15-7) dropped the four-game set, three games to one, for their first series loss of the season after taking two of three from the Padres in San Diego last weekend. In all, the clubs have been separated by two or fewer runs in 61 1/2 innings across the seven games.
“Oh, man, I’m drained, but these games bring all your energy up,” Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. said. “Five-hour game at this level, I just want to go home and go to sleep.”
The Dodgers had a 7-1 lead upon Dustin May’s exit after six innings and entered the ninth leading 7-5. That margin vanished when Manny Machado, atop Dodger fans’ list of villains in brown and yellow, tied the game with an RBI single off Jimmy Nelson, who surrendered two runs on four singles.
Nelson next walked Hosmer to load the bases but managed to keep the game tied by getting the next two batters out. The right-hander then escaped the 10th inning with runners on second and third unscathed.
The Dodgers, starting with a runner at second base, loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame against Tim Hill after the Padres elected to intentionally walk Max Muncy and Chris Taylor to bring up the pitcher’s spot.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts chose Clayton Kershaw to pinch-hit. He struck out. DJ Peters, called up to the majors for the first time Friday, followed with another strikeout, swinging at 3-2 fastball out of the strike zone. Austin Barnes walked to lead off the 11th inning to put two runners on base, but Edwin Ríos struck out, Mookie Betts flied out and Corey Seager grounded out to end the game.
“We know we didn’t play our best baseball,” Taylor said. “We know we got to take care of business and win that one.”
The Dodgers chased Joe Musgrove, architect of the first no-hitter in Padres history earlier this season, after forcing him to throw 77 pitches in three innings. They loaded the bases twice against the right-hander and again in the fifth inning against reliever Craig Stammen but went one for seven with four strikeouts with the bases full. As a result, they scored just two runs through five innings.
They finally broke through in the sixth. Sheldon Neuse, pinch-hitting for May, clobbered the first pitch from left-hander Nick Ramirez for a leadoff home run. Justin Turner lifted a sacrifice fly. Two batters, later, Taylor delivered the big blow, a three-run home run to right-center field to give the Dodgers a six-run cushion.
To that point, the Padres’ only run came on Tatis’s fifth home run in three games to lead off the fourth inning against May. By the end of the day, Tatis, who added a stolen base and his league-leading ninth error Sunday, became the first person to ever collect at least five home runs and two steals in a road series.
His fourth home run of the series — and second home run Saturday night — was an impressive power display that became controversial by Sunday morning.
Trevor Bauer threw the shortstop a 3-2 slider off the plate outside in the sixth inning. Tatis reached out and cracked it over the wall in straightaway center field.
Bauer thinks Tatis broke an unwritten rule for the blast. The Dodgers pitcher accused Tatis on Sunday morning — on Twitter and in a video he posted on his YouTube channel — of peeking back at catcher Will Smith to know where Smith was positioned before pouncing on the slider, further fueling a rivalry that has included just about everything since the start of the shortened 2020 season.
Tatis responded to Bauer’s accusation on Twitter by photo shopping Bauer’s face on to a baby.
Bauer then posted the 13-minute YouTube video. ending it by saying Tatis crossed the line when he peered back at Smith.
Roberts claimed he wasn’t aware the situation when asked before Sunday’s game.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Fernando as a ballplayer, the way he plays the game,” Roberts said. “If that is the case, which I don’t know, that will be noted.”
Does that mean your catcher will make an adjustment?
“No, that’s not what I’m talking about,” Roberts said.
Tatis didn’t appear to glance back at Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes on Sunday. He finished two for four with two walks anyway. Otherwise, May was nearly untouchable.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.