Yu Darvish was booed.
Fernando Tatis Jr. was booed louder.
Manny Machado was booed so loud the sparsely filled Dodger Stadium shook.
On a perfect Friday night for a yellow-and-brown meltdown, the San Diego Padres showed up hunted and haunted.
Darvish was returning to the scene of his 2017 World Series collapse.
“Darvish, you dog!”
Machado was returning to the place where he once refused to run out ground balls.
“Manny sucks, Manny sucks!”
Tatis was swaggering in as a flawed villain burdened with a .136 batting average.
“Booooo … booooo.”
It was all just noise.
The Padres didn’t blink. The Padres didn’t rattle. The Padres didn’t listen.
After the Padres’ 6-1 victory gave them a 3-2 lead in the 19-game season series, believe this about those quirky little neighbors from down the street: They are for real. They are for keeps. They have climbed on the Dodgers’ back and are breathing down their neck and will likely remain there for the rest of the summer.
They have the league’s hottest pitching staff, the league’s best infield and now, as Friday revealed, no fear of sparring in the noisy backyard of the league’s best team.
“It’s the biggest rivalry in baseball,” said Tatis Jr. afterward. “Everybody can feel it, everybody can see it … it’s a blessing to be part of it.”
And you thought they would view the trip to Dodger Stadium as a curse. No, the man called it a blessing, and that’s how the Padres played it on night when they turned all those past perceptions upside down.
Darvish a choker? Not for seven tough innings, he wasn’t. He pitched without his best stuff but with the right stuff, deftly dodging pothole after pothole, allowing a first-inning run and nothing more.
Before the game, the much-maligned former Dodger told the Times’ Dylan Hernandez that he encouraged fans to boo, saying, “So please write that if they want to do it, I would like for them to not be overly considerate of my feelings and enjoy booing as loud as they can.”
Wish granted. And yet Darvish weathered it, surviving three walks and a couple of hit batters and ending two innings by retiring lost Edwin Rios twice with two runners on base.
“Obviously a lot of memories in this stadium,” Darvish said afterward. “I don’t think there were any extremely rude fans, I felt like I was able to be out there and enjoy the game.”
Machado a slacker? Not in the game-deciding seventh inning, when he made a leaping, lunging catch of a Betts’ line drive with runners on first and second to apply the dagger. Betts looked stunned. The Dodgers looked defeated. The final six Dodgers hitters went down without a whimper.
“Just an unbelievable play,” said Padres Manager Jayce Tingler, adding, ‘’Defensively I haven’t seen anyone better …the way he catches the ball, his throwing ability is just off the charts … showing off his range, getting up, stealing that.”
Tatis Jr. a poser? Not on the 22nd anniversary of his father Fernando hitting two grand slams off Chan Ho Park in one inning at Dodger Stadium. The son celebrated the supernatural feat by — you’re not going to believe this — hitting two home runs off Kershaw.
The kid agreed, it’s nuts.
“I definitely knew this was the day,” Tatis Jr. said. “I even tell myself, you his two home runs today that would be so crazy. I feel like the baseball gods were in my favor today.”
He launched one in the third and one in the fifth, both in the left field seats, a combined 850 feet of smoke, and after each swing he did the strangest thing.
One of baseball’s gaudiest players simply dropped his bat. No flip. No taunt. No show. And that’s how you know these Padres are for real, watching them celebrate wondrous moments as if they’re expected events.
“You know how this game is,” said Tatis Jr. “It’s a wave. You have to be able to ride it.”
The Dodgers are currently crashing against the sand, losing four of their last five while scoring 11 runs in six games, 1.8 runs per game after averaging 6.1 runs in their first dozen games.
“We’re scuffling at the plate a little bit right now,” said Austin Barnes in an understatement. “Our pitching’s doing a pretty good job of keeping us in games. We just need to have some quality at-bats and pass it down the line … we’ve faced some tough pitching but we’re a tough lineup too.”
Correction: They were a tough lineup. That was before being wrecked with injuries. They’re missing former MVP Cody Bellinger, role-playing star Chris Taylor, and top prospects Gavin Lux and Zach McKinstry.
And, oh yeah, right about now, do you think they’re also missing Kike Hernandez and Joc Pederson?
Their depth was the only question mark on a team that should be headed for historical greatness. That question mark has become bold-faced awful quickly.
Rios started at first base Friday and stranded those four runners while striking out twice and grounding into a double play. Rookie Luke Raley started in right field and could only manage a bunt single.
“It’s tough,” said Barnes. “There’s a lot of guys that are a little banged up right now, guys that are big parts of this team. They are testing our depth and all that, but we have a lot of good players. Whoever we have out there that day, we feel like we have a chance to win so that’s not really an excuse. We just need to play better baseball.”
They just need to play more focused baseball, more fearless baseball, more like that team that will be the other dugout for the remaining two games of this weekend series and for at least a dozen more games after that.
Yeah, that would be the San Diego Padres. Get used to seeing them. They’re not going anywhere.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.