Column: Padres’ pitching problems overshadow Dodgers’ hitting woes in NLDS opener

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mike Clevinger leaves Game 1 of the NLDS on Tuesday.
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mike Clevinger leaves Game 1 of the NLDS on Tuesday in the second inning with an apparent injury.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

This isn’t October baseball.

This is a march across a Texan desert.

And the Dodgers’ opponents showed up without any water.

Whatever offensive troubles the Dodgers are experiencing at the moment, whatever concerns there are about Kenley Jansen and the back end of their bullpen, it’s hard to imagine them failing to win their National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres.

The Padres don’t have the pitching.

The Dodgers exploited the shortcoming in a 5-1 victory Tuesday night in Game 1, as they forced the Padres to deploy eight relievers from their already worn-down bullpen.


The Dodgers defeat the San Diego Padres 5-1 to take Game 1 of the NLDS in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday night.

Oct. 7, 2020

“Obviously, they exhausted a lot of arms tonight by matching up,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I think the key for us is the more arms we can see, I think the better for us, especially in a five-game series.”

Just two innings into game, the Padres’ situation went from disconcerting to borderline catastrophic.

The team’s starting pitcher and prized trade-deadline acquisition, Mike Clevinger, retreated to the visiting clubhouse at Globe Life Field with a trainer by his side. Clevinger had returned to the Padres’ rotation after missing their wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals because of elbow problems.

Forget about how the Padres’ party bus was in danger of running out of gas. At that moment, one of the front tires fell off.

Clevinger had pitched only one inning since Sept. 13 but nonetheless counted as one of only two legitimate starters available in this series. Zach Davies was the other.

Dinelson Lamet, a Cy Young Award candidate, remained sidelined with tightness in his arm. Garrett Richards was banished to the bullpen.


Clayton Kershaw solidified himself as one of the greatest high school pitchers in Texas history 14 years ago near where he will start Game 2 of the NLDS.

Oct. 6, 2020

The shortage of starters placed an unreasonable burden on the Padres’ bullpen in the wild-card round.

The Padres used seven relievers in Game 1 of the three-game series and eight in both Games 2 and 3. The bullpen pitched a combined 21 innings in the series.

Which made the opening game of this NLDS a virtual must-win for them.

Their only realistic path to victory was to ride Clevinger to victory in Game 1, then rely on their bullpen to win two more games.

The absence of days off during the series figured to compound the bullpen’s workload. The more games that were played, the more fatigued their relievers figured to become.

Their plan lasted two pitches into the second inning, when Clevinger said he experienced “like a knocking in the back of my elbow … like my bones are hitting in the back of my elbow.”

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


Pierce Johnson, who pitched in every game of the previous round, replaced him.

With one out in the third inning, Padres manager Jayce Tingler called on the symbol of the Padres’ desperation, Ryan Weathers. A 20-year-old left-hander, Weathers had never pitched in the major leagues. He was in Class A last year. With the minor league season canceled this year, he spent this year pitching in intrasquad games at the Padres’ alternate site.

Weathers pitched 1-1/3 scoreless innings.

The Dodgers had their own problems.

Starter Walker Buehler had pitched only once over the last 19 days of the regular season because of a blister on his pitching hand. His start against the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild-card series lasted only four innings.

This start was equally short.

The Dodgers also weren’t hitting. They couldn’t score against Weathers, or anyone else, for that matter.

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.

Oct. 6, 2020

The run they scored in the fifth inning to tie the game at 1-1 was the product of two walks, a wild pitch by Richards and a throwing error by Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth on a grounder by Cody Bellinger.

Then came the sixth inning.

Mookie Betts followed a walk by Chris Taylor by delivering the Dodgers’ first hit of the game — a double off Richards to left field that advanced Taylor to third base.


The Dodgers blew open the game against Richards’ replacement, left-hander Matt Strahm.

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A sacrifice fly by Corey Seager drove in Taylor. Justin Turner singled to score Betts. An infield hit by Bellinger pushed home Turner.

Max Muncy capped the four-run surge when he scored on a wild pitch by Craig Stammen.

The game was over. The series almost certainly was too.

Hernández reported from Los Angeles.