The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres Thursday with a clean, brisk 1-0 victory at Petco Park while getting encouraging individual performances a week before the start of the postseason.
Catcher Will Smith, mired in a month-long slump, produced two hits after totaling two hits in his previous eight games. Rookie pitcher Dustin May, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time, overwhelmed the Padres (70-89) with another dominant inning.
Max Muncy, playing with a fractured right wrist less than a week removed from a quad injury, produced the only run with a two-out RBI single off left-hander Joey Lucchesi in the sixth inning. The hit scored Chris Taylor from first base on an aggressive send from third-base coach Dino Ebel.
“I’m just glad I scored and we’re not playing right now,” Taylor said.
Most importantly, Clayton Kershaw was sharp in his final regular season start. The left-hander limited a feeble Padres lineup to two hits and a walk while striking out seven over six scoreless innings. He threw 90 pitches.
After a shoulder injury torpedoed his spring training and delayed his debut three weeks, Kershaw finished the regular season 16-5 with a 3.05 earned-run average over 177 1/3 innings in 28 starts. The innings and starts are his most since 2015.
“Really didn’t know what to expect coming out for the season,” Kershaw said. “But to make 20-however many starts it was and be healthy all the way through is great. I feel good going into the playoffs.”
The left-hander’s next appearance will be in the National League Division Series. Which game remains unknown; manager Dave Roberts said the club has not made a decision yet. Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the Dodgers’ other definite starters for the first round.
“We’re going to talk to all three of those guys and figure out what makes the most sense for them individually and more importantly for us,” Roberts said. “We’re going to kind of get those three together and figure it out.”
After the game, the Dodgers (103-56) traveled to San Francisco for their final regular season series in elaborate costumes. A ritual usually reserved for just rookies, the entire team and staff members dressed up for the flight. They left San Diego with more concerns surfacing so close to the playoffs.
The first developed when Corey Seager departed Wednesday’s game with left hamstring soreness. It’s the same hamstring Seager strained in June and led to a month on the the injured list. Seager didn’t play Thursday, but Roberts insisted the shortstop will be in the lineup Friday against the San Francisco Giants.
Roberts revealed Justin Turner wasn’t in the lineup for the second game in a row because his “back tightened up” during early batting practice Wednesday. Roberts said he wasn’t sure if Turner will play Friday.
“Basically just want to make sure that he’s fine,” Roberts said. “Something that kind of came out of nowhere. And we’re managing it.”
Turner’s back issue surfaced after he missed nearly two weeks this month with a sprained ankle. The third baseman, a crucial component to the Dodgers’ offense, has compiled 11 plate appearances since Sept. 7.
“Not ideal, but in talking with Justin and the training staff, it’s something that shouldn’t be of concern,” Roberts said. “I still think he’s swinging the bat well. Got him in some games to reset. So I think the at-bats, I think that he’ll be fine once we get him back in there to get him ready for the postseason. Number one, we just want to make sure that the back is in good health.”
Without Turner for most of the month, the Dodgers clinched home-field advantage in the National League and remain in the hunt for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
After Thursday’s games, the Dodgers were one game ahead of the New York Yankees and one game behind the Houston Astros. The Yankees and Astros would both hold the tiebreakers. The Yankees would claim it with their head-to-head record — they took two of three games from the Dodgers last month — while the Astros would own it based on their better division record.
For that to matter, the Dodgers would need to advance to the World Series for the third consecutive year. Thursday offered encouraging results in preparation for that pursuit. Having Seager and Turner not just available, but as close to 100% as possible, would make the path far easier.
“If the playoffs were to start today, those guys would all be in there,” Roberts said. “So I think it’s something that we’re being prudent and making sure that these guys are 100% ready, physically, when the playoffs start.”