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Dodgers reliever David Price and catcher Will Smith celebrate after shutting down the Padres in the 12th inning and securing a victory.
Dodgers reliever David Price and catcher Will Smith celebrate after shutting down the Padres in the 12th inning and securing an 11-6 victory. (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

The first “Beat L.A.” chants inside Petco Park on Friday erupted at 7:08 p.m., three minutes before first pitch, to apply the final touches to the hype surrounding the most anticipated April series in recent history.

The two-word directive broke out periodically throughout the night, punctuating the home team’s every highlight. It was energy bottled up over the previous year.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant empty stadiums and artificial crowd noise served as the backdrop to the escalating on-field tension between the teams last season. Friday was their first chance to watch the teams up close since the Padres became a legitimate World Series contender.

For more nearly five hours, the 15,250 people in attendance witnessed a game that lived up to its billing, a seesaw clash with blasts, miscues, oddities, and raw emotion so rarely seen two weeks into a regular season. In the end, after 12 innings played over nearly five hours, the Dodgers emerged with a thrilling 11-6 win.

“Yeah,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “it felt like a rivalry tonight.”

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner took it a step further in February, calling the upcoming season series between the clubs projected to finish atop the National League West 19 World Series games. For a few minutes Friday, it looked like he would be the hero in Game 1 of 19 when he lined a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning.

It was on Kenley Jansen to hold the lead to complete a four-out save. A two-out walk to Manny Machado cost him.

Machado was visibly bothered by an aching back, enough to have a trainer visit him at first base after his walk but capitalized on Jansen’s slow move to the plate to steal second base. He then took third base on a wild pitch and scored when Eric Hosmer snuck a groundball through the infield with two strikes, ultimately sending the game to a 10th inning that checked more boxes off the bingo card.

Dennis Santana then walked to the mound for the Dodgers as Wil Myers took second base for the Padres as part of the extra-innings rule Major League Baseball is incorporating for the second straight season to end games sooner and save pitching staffs from overuse.

Dodgers pitcher Dennis Santana, center, has words with the Padres' Jorge Mateo after Mateo was hit by a pitch.Dodgers pitcher Dennis Santana, center, has words with the Padres' Jorge Mateo after Mateo was hit by a pitch.
Dodgers pitcher Dennis Santana, center, has words with the Padres’ Jorge Mateo after Mateo was hit by a pitch in the 10th inning. (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Jurickson Profar, who delivered a game-tying two-run double off Corey Knebel in the eighth inning, flied out to lead off the frame. Next, Santana plunked Jorge Mateo with the next pitch.

Mateo was displeased and let Santana know. Santana responded, the two began converging and the benches cleared. Max Muncy intercepted Santana and pushed him away from the fray, which quickly dissipated before the bullpens reached the action. In left field, security officials tackled a fan that had run onto the field.

Santana regrouped to strike out Victor Caratini before walking Trent Grisham to load the bases for Fernando Tatis Jr. The battle between the two men from San Pedro de Macorís lasted six pitches. It ended when Tatis Jr. watched a slider for strike three, igniting Santana as he walked off to jubilant teammates.

The game reached another level of weird in the 12th inning. Corey Seager led it off with a leadoff two-run home run – the second in Dodgers history since the extra-innings rule was implemented last year – to snap the stalemate.

The Dodgers didn’t stop piling on. Turner and Muncy each delivered singles to bring up Chris Taylor. He hit a groundball to second baseman Jake Cronenworth who threw to second base to start an inning-ending double play, but Tatis Jr. dropped the ball and the bases were left loaded. Zach McKinstry took advantage and smacked an RBI to single to expand the lead to three and prompt San Diego to throw the towel.

The Padres were on their ninth reliever. Their bullpen was out of fresh arms. So manager Jayce Tingler moved Cronenworth to the mound for his major-league pitching debut and inserted Joe Musgrove, who was honored in a pregame ceremony for throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history, in left field.

Luke Raley welcomed Cronenworth with an RBI single six innings after clubbing his first career home run. David Price, a light-hitting pitcher, was up next and he lifted a sac fly off Cronenworth, a position player, to Musgrove, a pitcher, in left field.

“My hit streak is intact still,” quipped Price, who is 4 for 50 in his career as a hitter.

The strange sequence ended on another strange note when Cronenworth struck out Mookie Betts swinging at an 89-mph fastball.

“I wanted to maybe throw a little harder,” Cronenworth said, “but they told me not to.”

The plan was for Price to take the night off after recording his second career save Thursday, but the Dodgers had already used five pitchers and needed length. So they turned to the converted starter. It was just the third time Price, a former Cy Young Award winner, has pitched on back-to-back days in his 13-year career. He finished the outing with four strikeouts to one walk and didn’t give up a hit.

“You hear about a player and teammate and performer,” Roberts said, “but when you see it like this, it’s just next level teammate and competitor.”

Both clubs announced very different injury updates to significant players before the game. On the Dodgers’ side, Roberts said a recent test revealed a hairline fracture in Cody Bellinger’s left fibula. The center fielder is expected to miss at least another week or two.

On the other side, the Padres announced a reinforcement a few hours before first pitch: Tatis Jr., their franchise cornerstone, was coming off the injured list to play Friday.

Tatis Jr.’s season appeared in jeopardy when he dislocated his left shoulder on a swing 11 days earlier. His return doesn’t mean the shoulder problem was solved. He’s been instructed to minimize risk to stay on the field. It’s a risk the Padres, thirsting to dethrone the Dodgers in the National League West, are willing to take.

His left shoulder ultimately wasn’t the problem Friday; he crushed a home run off Walker Buehler to straightaway center field in the fifth inning to ease concerns. The issue was his right arm when he made a two-run, two-out throwing error in the sixth inning.

Tatis Jr. committed his gaffe after diving to snag a groundball Chris Taylor hit to his right with two outs. He could’ve eaten the ball and allowed the tying run to score, but he decided to make a difficult throw across his body to nab Max Muncy at second base to end the inning.

The ball skipped by Cronenworth and into foul territory. Turner scored and Muncy followed, beating a throw with a foot-first slide to put the Dodgers ahead. Moments later, Taylor scored when Zach McKinstry struck out on a wild pitch and reached first base.

“You can’t give teams extra outs,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said, “and you certainly can’t give the Dodgers extra outs.”

Rookie Ryan Weathers made his first career start for the Padres and held the Dodgers scoreless for 3 2/3 innings. But he needed 79 pitches for the 11 outs and exited before completing the fourth inning, forcing the Padres bullpen, already heavily used this season, to cover at least 13 outs.

Weathers is one of the Padres’ top prospects. He made his major league debut as a reliever against the Dodgers in the playoffs last season and didn’t flinch. But he started Friday out of necessity after an injury.

Walker Buehler started opposite him because the Dodgers — in a nod to the series’ importance — manipulated their rotation to line up their best three starters for the weekend. Buehler played his part and yielded two runs on seven hits in six innings before giving way to the bullpen for a stirring finish to a long night that surpassed all expectations.

“I’m very hesitant to get ahead of things, but it was like a playoff game,” Roberts said. “I’m just spent emotionally.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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