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Dodgers break it open late to take Game 1 of NLDS against Padres

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The groundball ricocheted off the end of Cody Bellinger’s bat up the middle, slowly sneaking through the Globe Life Field infield before San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth smothered it with a dive.

But it was too late. Bellinger sprinted through first base to complete a 71.4-mph infield hit as the Dodgers’ fourth run scored in their strange, slow-moving 5-1 win over the Padres in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday. Bellinger turned to his excited dugout and shook his hands, the team’s celebration when someone reaches base on a hit they didn’t barrel up.

“It’s not about hitting home runs,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “It’s about hitting balls hard and taking good at-bats. And, eventually, we broke them down.”

The Dodgers understand the challenge playing the remainder of the postseason at Globe Life Field presents. The ballpark is a cavernous, home run suppressor. It was the most difficult ballpark to hit a homer in during the 60-game regular season. To score runs the team that hit the most homers per game in major league history during the season has to treat home runs as bonuses.

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Photos from Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

For five innings, there weren’t any hits at all by the Dodgers, even as they hit the ball hard. Six Padres pitchers had combined to hold them hitless but couldn’t keep them off the board. The Dodgers worked eight walks in the first five innings and scored in the fifth on an error. Then came the barrage.

It started when Mookie Betts, after Chris Taylor’s one-out walk, pulled his fourth double of the postseason down the left-field line against Garrett Richards for the Dodgers’ first hit. Corey Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

Next, Turner flared a single to right field to drive in Betts. Max Muncy doubled and Will Smith was intentionally walked before Bellinger delivered the weakest big hit of his major league career off left-hander Matt Strahm to help the Dodgers’ four-run blitz.

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The Dodgers finished with four hits, no home runs, 10 walks and a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is Wednesday night.

“We weathered it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “and just continued to take good at-bats and broke out.”

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Highlights from the Dodgers’ 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres in Game 1 of the NLDS on Tuesday.

The Dodgers completed the 60-game regular season with the best record in the majors. In a normal year, they would’ve enjoyed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs at Dodger Stadium. In 2020, they got a three-game wild-card series against the Milwaukee Brewers before they were sent packing to face the team with the second-best record in the NL.

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Major League Baseball tried making them feel at home inside Globe Life Field. The public-address announcer introduced the Dodgers as “YOUR” Los Angeles Dodgers and the Padres as the “visiting” ball club. A prerecorded rendition of the national anthem by Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle was played. The same graphics used at Dodger Stadium were shown on the two big screens. Fake crowd cheers roared when each member of the Dodgers starting lineup was introduced.

There were, however, fans in the stadium. Families of both teams cheered from down the baselines.

They witnessed two starting pitchers take the mound with questions hovering.

Walker Buehler was still dealing with a blister on his right index finger that put him on the injured list twice at the end of the regular season. He logged just four innings in his previous two starts, including in Game 1 of the wild-card round.

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San Diego’s pitching problems are a borderline catastrophe, and that’s why the Dodgers overcame a sluggish night at the plate to win Game 1 of the NLDS.

Buehler ended up throwing a season-high 95 pitches in another four-inning outing. He posted eight strikeouts but had a career-high four walks and allowed a career-high three steals.

The combination proved costly in the fourth inning. After walking the bases loaded and escaping in the third, Buehler walked Wil Myers, who then stole second base. Two batters later, Austin Nola lined an RBI single for the game’s first run.

Dustin May, Victor González, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen combined to throw five scoreless innings in relief after Buehler’s exit.

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“Physically, I felt great,” Buehler said. “I think the ball was coming out of my hand well. I just missed a lot with it.”

For the Padres, starter Mike Clevinger had pitched just one inning since Sept. 13 because of an elbow impingement. He was left off of San Diego’s wild-card series roster but was ready to start Tuesday. He didn’t last long.

After he stranded two runners in a 22-pitch first inning, alarms rang in the Padres dugout when he fell behind 2-0 against Bellinger to start the second. Clevinger’s second pitch was a 77-mph slider, well below his typical velocity. That prompted manager Jayce Tingler and a trainer to visit the pitcher. Clevinger then walked off the mound and later complained of tightness in the elbow.

The short outing forced San Diego to pivot to another bullpen game after using nine pitchers in Game 3 of the wild-card series against St. Louis on Friday. They used nine again Tuesday, tying the NLDS mark for a nine-inning game. The teams used 14 pitchers total, an NLDS record, and played the longest game in this ballpark’s 2½-month history. In the end, after 3 hours, 54 minutes, the Dodgers strung together enough hits to move one step closer to a championship.


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