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A closer look at Manny Machado vs. Brusdar Graterol

Brusdar Graterol celebrates during Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

When Manny Machado sent a Clayton Kershaw slider screaming over the left-field wall at 108-mph in the sixth inning Wednesday night, the San Diego Padres slugger turned toward his teammates and heaved his bat toward the third-base dugout in Globe Life Field before starting his home-run trot.

This was nothing new for Machado and the Padres, who have turned the bat flip and home-run celebration into an art form, injecting the game with a much-needed shot of excitement and youthful exuberance while irritating those who think such antics show up the opponent.

Which is why the Dodgers found it ironic that Machado took such exception to Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol’s over-the-top celebration of Cody Bellinger’s spectacular catch that robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a two-run homer in the seventh inning of a 6-5 Dodgers victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

Graterol, the 22-year-old right-hander with the 100-mph fastball and nasty slider, thrust his arms into the air and hurled his glove toward the Dodgers dugout after Bellinger’s inning-ending catch above the center-field wall preserved a 4-3 Dodgers lead. He pointed to the sky, pounded his chest and tossed his cap.

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Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol celebrates after a catch by Cody Bellinger
Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol celebrates after center fielder Cody Bellinger robbed Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in the seventh inning.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol celebrates after a catch by Cody Bellinger
Brusdar Graterol was ecstatic to escape the seventh inning with the Dodgers still on top 4-3.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Television cameras then caught Machado, who was on deck, hurling a stream of expletives at Graterol and mouthing the words, “I’ll be waiting for you!” Graterol responded by blowing Machado a kiss and waving at him.

When Machado continued to scream at Graterol, Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and first baseman Max Muncy came to Graterol’s defense, walking toward Machado and angrily waving at him, as if to tell Machado to go back into the dugout.

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“I just feel like, when he hit his home run, he threw the bat and this, that and the other,” Betts said of Machado in a post-game interview with FS1. “Then, when we take one away, we can celebrate, too. It’s got to be two sides to it. That was just what I was saying.”

Padres third baseman Manny Machado yells toward Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol.
Padres third baseman Manny Machado yells toward Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Brusdar Graterol (48) and Max Muncy (13) are among the Dodgers who responded to Padres' Manny Machado
Brusdar Graterol (48) and Max Muncy (13) are among the Dodgers who responded to Padres’ Manny Machado.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Machado and Graterol have a little history. When Graterol, who is nicknamed “Bazooka,” served as the opener for a Sept. 16 game in Petco Park, he punctuated a first-inning strikeout of Machado by pounding his chest and pointing to the sky, a celebration that seemed to irk the Padres third baseman.

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But that was a mere skirmish compared to Wednesday night’s conflagration, which added more fuel to an already heated NL West rivalry.

“I think that obviously was a big play,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Bellinger’s catch. “We all know that Brusdar is very emotional, and he just kind of got caught up in the moment and was really celebrating Cody’s play. And I think Manny took exception to it, and that was it. But I think it’s over.”

Maybe not. The Dodgers took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series with Wednesday night’s win, but Graterol needed only seven pitches to record four outs in the seventh and eighth innings, and he could very well pitch if a save situation arises in Game 3 on Thursday night.

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After Graterol got Machado to ground out to start the eighth inning Wednesday night, the two exchanged more words—and what appeared to be chuckles—as Machado passed the mound on his way to the dugout.

With struggling veteran Kenley Jansen, who needed 30 pitches to record two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday night, expected to be removed from his ninth-inning role, Graterol and Blake Treinen are the leading candidates to close games. Betts believes Graterol is ready for the challenge.

“He’s a competitor,” Betts said. “He loves to have fun, but he is definitely fierce on the mound. He showed some emotion, too. He’s pretty much everything you can ask for. Great teammate. Great competitor. Just a great person.”

As for Graterol’s extravagant celebration of Bellinger’s catch, not everyone in San Diego’s dugout thought he was out of line, even if the blowing of the kiss may have pushed the boundaries of baseball’s so-called unwritten rules.

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The game is different nowadays,” said Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, who grounded out with the bases loaded to end the game. “I think fans want to see more emotion, especially in playoff series, and in a rivalry series like this. When you get the best competitors from all over the world together on the biggest stage, you’re gonna show a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement.

“Nothing got out of hand. Guys were just sticking up for each other, for their teams, and we continued on with the game. That’s just baseball. That’s what it is nowadays. It’s a new age, a new era. I didn’t see anything wrong with either Manny’s bat flip or with what Graterol did with his glove or hat.”

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