Dodgers back to asserting dominance over Padres after playoff letdown

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LOS ANGELES – Their hats were a lighter shade. Her cleats and socks included touches of pink. Their uniforms aside, Sunday’s performance on Mother’s Day looked typical of a first-place Dodgers team that the Padres continued to do as they tightened their grip on division dominance.

A shutout victory provided the dagger in a weekend sweep as the Dodgers notched their 11th straight regular-season win against the Padres since August 2021. They have not lost a season series in San Diego since 2010.

“We have a really good team,” Mookie Betts said after a tribute in Sunday’s 4-0 win. “We’re just showing it off.”

While nothing the Dodgers do this May will erase what happened last October, their regular-season dominance over the Padres persists in a way that didn’t seem destined to continue.

After San Diego swept last year’s NL Division Series, the Dodgers took a step back in spending as the Padres added, acquiring free agent Xander Bogaerts and extending Manny Machado and Yu Darvish this offseason. The Padres’ payroll jumped to third-highest in the sport.

“We have people in the room who can take it to the next level and win the world championship,” Padres president Peter Seidler declared this spring.

The start of the 2023 19-22 season was not part of the plan.

“We’ve just got to keep fighting and trust and believe we’re going to get through it,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said after being swept Sunday, taking a more positive tone than he took Thursday when he expressed his frustrations afterward . a losing streak to the Twins.

The Padres are in a much different place now than they were a week ago, when it looked like the return of Fernando Tatís Jr. it might have provided the impetus needed to get them going.

They were 9-11 with a team OPS that ranked 22nd in baseball when Tatís was activated from his suspension on April 20. With Tatís back, the Padres won nine of their next 13 games, capped by a 5–2 victory against the Dodgers in which Tatís hit two home runs off Clayton Kershaw. But the joy was short-lived and offensive problems persisted.

The Padres’ revamped lineup scored just three runs over the final two games of last weekend’s series against Los Angeles. The Twins then took two of three from San Diego in Minnesota, prompting Melvin’s plea for better baseball.

Mookie Betts hits a two-run homer, giving the Dodgers the lead against the Padres

Mookie Betts hits a two-run homer, giving the Dodgers the lead against the Padres

Instead, an anemic Padres offense put up a total of four runs in three games this weekend at Dodger Stadium, which is getting quieter by the day. After recording eight hits and going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position Friday, the Padres collected a combined eight hits over the next two days while going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position Saturday and Sunday.

Tatís’ return has yet to fully ignite a Padres offense that currently has the same OPS as the Kansas City Royals (.697).

“Five days ago, we were talking about getting out of this thing, and then we haven’t been able to sustain it,” Melvin said. “Until we keep that up, we’re not going to be the team we hope to be.”

The struggles are all the more surprising considering Juan Soto has returned to his slugging ways, now sporting a team-best .886 OPS on the year. Bogaerts carried the offense for the Padres early in the season, but has a .162 batting average over his last 18 games. Machado, meanwhile, has yet to start this year with a .654 OPS.

Juan Soto smashes a solo home run to give the Padres a 1-0 lead over the Dodgers

Juan Soto smashes a solo home run to give the Padres a 1-0 lead over the Dodgers

“Just keep playing,” Machado said. “That’s all we can do. I think we’re doing everything we can out there, and s— it’s just not going our way. We’re going through this stretch. It’s OK. Keep your heads up and we’re out tomorrow . Maybe we lose tomorrow. Maybe not. Who knows? But go out there and perform, keep playing our game, that’s all we can do.”

Machado remained confident that the tough stretch is nothing more than that: that the assembled talent will eventually win out.

“Everyone here knows what we have,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are showing off what they’ve got. They have won 13 of 15 games and hold a three-game lead over the second-place Diamondbacks. Their lead over the third-place Padres has grown to seven games, and the two teams don’t meet again until August.

They’ve had a concussion in Will Smith that kept the Dodgers’ catcher out for 13 games, a back injury to JD Martinez that kept the designated hitter out for 15 games, and five players who went on the paternity list during the initial season.

And they have continued to dominate their most dangerous enemy. After this weekend’s sweep, the Dodgers are now 19-6 against the Padres in the regular season since the start of last year.

JD Martinez goes out, Dodgers take early lead over Padres

JD Martinez goes out, Dodgers take early lead over Padres

“I think we’re playing good baseball,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I know. We know we have a good ball club. Like I said before, it’s good to play good baseball against a team like that, put some distance in front of us and them.”

Over the winter, Roberts lamented that the Dodgers didn’t seem to have the same intensity as the Padres during the NLDS. However, that same feeling could also help explain how the Dodgers won a record 111 games last season and have captured the division 10 of the last 11 seasons.

Rather than hype this weekend’s game with the Padres, they focused inward.

“There are many keys to success,” Roberts said. “I think one of them is putting more emphasis on your own ball club and not getting distracted by other variables, other factors, other teams. I think that, for me, has been a hallmark of all our clubs, and this year it is. it’s no different.”

Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman square off as the Dodgers take a 4-2 lead over the Padres.

Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman square off as the Dodgers take a 4-2 lead over the Padres.

Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman homered as the Los Angeles Dodgers took a 4-2 lead over the San Diego Padres.

This year, however, is different considering the roster construction. The Dodgers no longer have Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger or Justin Turner. They didn’t come into this season expecting to break a new record for wins. Roberts did not guarantee a World Series, as he did a year ago. He acknowledged the possibility of more volatility.

But he, along with his players, also expressed their belief.

“We know we have a good ball club,” Roberts reiterated. “I think the hallmark of our club is a lot of unselfish guys, but also guys who do a really good job of staying in the moment.”

Meanwhile, the new-look Padres can’t wait for that moment to pass.

“I think at the end of the year things will be a little different,” Machado said. “We just have to keep fighting for it.”

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. He was previously editor of the Dodgers’ digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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