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Nine concerns the Dodgers should have about facing the Padres in the NLDS

San Diego Padres Manny Machado, left, and Los Angeles Dodgers' Freddie Freeman.
The Dodgers and San Diego Padres will meet in the National League Division Series, which starts Tuesday. Here are nine things the Dodgers will need to wary of in the series.
(Frank Franklin II, Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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Oh, you again? Or would that be, Yu again?

The Dodgers will face a familiar and sometimes feisty foe in the National League Division Series after the San Diego Padres and Joe Musgrove sent the 101-win New York Mets home for the winter with a 6-0 victory in the decisive third game of their wild-card series at Citi Field on Sunday night.

The Padres spoiled what many fans — and national television executives — hoped would be a bicoastal playoff showdown between the Dodgers and Mets by beating up Max Scherzer in Game 1 and riding Musgrove’s dominant start — seven shutout innings, one hit, five strikeouts — in Game 3.

But they’ll face a more formidable challenge in the 111-win Dodgers, who have beaten up on their Southern California rivals for the past 12 years like a big brother bullying a little brother.

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The Dodgers are 144-73 against the Padres since 2011, including a 14-5 mark against them this season. They swept San Diego in a hotly contested 2020 division series en route to their World Series title in the pandemic-shortened season.

But as Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said, “It doesn’t really matter [what happened in the regular season]. Anything can happen in a short series.”

Here are nine things to know about the Padres heading into Game 1 of the NLDS on Tuesday at 6:37 p.m.:

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1. Macho man

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado reacts after driving in a run.
San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado, right, reacts after driving in a run against the New York Mets in Game 3 of the National League wild-card series Sunday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The loss of Fernando Tatis Jr. to a left-wrist fracture and performance-enhancing drug suspension, and the lengthy struggles of trade-deadline acquisition Juan Soto left big holes in the lineup, but a lack of protection did not prevent third baseman Manny Machado from having an MVP-caliber season.

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Machado hit .298 with an .898 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 32 homers, 37 doubles, 102 RBIs and 100 runs, including a .319 (45 for 141) average with runners in scoring position. He can also be lethal when ambushing pitchers, batting .449 (44 for 98) with a 1.159 OPS, five homers and nine doubles on the first pitch.

Machado, who homered off Scherzer on Friday night, has fared well against Dodgers ace Julio Urías, with a .360 average (nine for 25), 1.247 OPS, four homers and seven RBIs against the left-hander.

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2. Armed forces

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish delivers against the New York Mets on Friday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The Padres have a superb one-two pitching punch in Yu Darvish, the right-hander who went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 30 starts, and left-hander Blake Snell, who went 8-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 24 starts.

Darvish, whose six-pitch mix features an 86-mph cutter and 95-mph four-seamer, had 197 strikeouts and 37 walks in 194 2/3 innings and went six innings or more in 28 of 30 starts. Snell, with a fastball that touches 98 mph, went 8-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 17 starts since July 1, with 133 whiffs and 32 walks in 92 2/3 innings.

Because they pitched in the wild-card round, Darvish and Snell will start only once in the division series, with right-hander Mike Clevinger announced to start Game 1 Tuesday night.

Darvish was sharp in his wild-card start, giving up one run and six hits in seven innings of a 7-1 Game 1 win. Snell struggled in Game 2, giving up two runs and four hits, and walking six in 3 1/3 innings of a 7-3 loss.

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Freddie Freeman thought he would end his career with the Atlanta Braves, but he has since grown comfortable with the Dodgers.

Oct. 7, 2022

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3. Sleeping giant?

San Diego's Juan Soto bats against the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 3.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

When the Padres sent six prospects to Washington to acquire Soto on Aug. 2, they thought they were getting one of baseball’s best young sluggers, a left-handed-hitting right fielder with elite power and plate discipline.

But Soto, 23, battled back tightness in late August and closed the season by hitting .198 (22 for 111) with a .679 OPS, three homers, five doubles, 10 RBIs, 14 runs, 22 strikeouts and 26 walks in 32 games since Aug. 29.

The Padres need Soto to hit more like he did in the 2019 postseason, when he batted .277 with a .927 OPS, five homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games to lead the Nationals to the World Series title. Two hard-hit singles in Game 2 and two hits, including a two-run single, in Game 3 against the Mets might be a good omen.

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4. Case closed

San Diego Padres relief pitcher Josh Hader delivers against the Chicago White Sox on Oct. 1.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Josh Hader was a mess after his Aug. 1 trade from Milwaukee, the left-hander going 1-1 with a 17.55 ERA and one blown save in his first nine games with the Padres, giving up 13 earned runs and 13 hits, striking out nine and walking eight in 6 2/3 innings.

But the closer with the 97.5-mph sinking fastball and nasty 84-mph slider found his bearings — and his command — in early September and did not give up an earned run in 9 1/3 innings of his last 10 regular-season games, a stretch in which he gave up four hits, struck out 13, walked one and saved six of seven games.

Hader closed out Sunday night’s clinching win with a one-two-three ninth inning.

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5. October revivals

San Diego's Trent Grisham rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run.
San Diego’s Trent Grisham rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the New York Mets in Game 2 of the NL wild card on Saturday.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Two players who struggled the most down the stretch — center fielder Trent Grisham and designated hitter Josh Bell — are heating up at the right time.

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The left-handed-hitting Grisham hit .184 on the season and .107 with one homer in September, starting only six times in 15 games before the Padres clinched a playoff spot on Oct. 3. But he homered in each of the first two wild-card games and lined a two-out RBI single to center in the fourth inning Sunday.

Grisham reached base eight times in 12 plate appearances against the Mets. He reached base eight times in his final 55 plate appearances in the regular season.

Bell, acquired from the Nationals with Soto, hit .192 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 53 games for the Padres, but the switch-hitter crushed a first-inning homer off Scherzer to jump-start the Game 1 win and singled to spark a two-run rally in the second inning of Sunday night’s win.

Dodgers’ Trea Turner says he hasn’t felt quite right. His numbers have suffered in the last month, but he hopes to find his groove by playoffs next week.

Oct. 9, 2022

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6. Third time no charm

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove celebrates walking off the mound.
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove reacts at the end of the seventh inning in Game 3 of the Padres’ NL wild-card win over the New York Mets.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

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The Padres have a strong No. 3 starter in Musgrove, who went 10-7 with a 2.93 ERA in 30 starts, striking out 184 and walking 42 in 181 innings and became the first pitcher in major league history to throw seven scoreless innings and give up fewer than two hits in a winner-take-all game Sunday night.

But the right-hander probably won’t have a long leash against the Dodgers. In his first time through the order this season, Musgrove held batters to a .181 average (46 for 253), .553 OPS, seven homers and 12 runs. In his third time through, he yielded a .278 average (47 for 169), .900 OPS, nine homers and 32 runs.

Musgrove gave up some hard contact in his third time through the Mets order Sunday night but escaped unscathed.

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7. Close and late

San Diego's Jorge Alfaro, right, celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run.
San Diego’s Jorge Alfaro, right, celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run against the Minnesota Twins in July.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

]Though the Dodgers have struggled to win games decided by one run and those going to extra innings, the Padres have worked plenty of late-game magic this season, going 34-17 in one-run games and 12-5 in extra-inning games.

They also have 12 walk-off wins, with almost half of those delivered by an unlikely source — backup catcher Jorge Alfaro had a franchise-record five walk-off plate appearances, including a bases-loaded walk off Craig Kimbrel that gave the Padres a 4-3, 10-inning win over the Dodgers at Petco Park on Sept. 27.

Chris Taylor is confident he will play in the NLDS after dealing with neck stiffness, but the Dodgers aren’t sure if Blake Treinen or Dustin May will pitch.

Oct. 7, 2022

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8. Secret weapon

San Diego's Robert Suarez delivers against the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 29.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Robert Suarez might be the best reliever you’ve never heard of, a 31-year-old rookie from Venezuela who played five seasons in Japan before signing a one-year, $6-million deal with the Padres last winter.

The right-hander with a fastball that averages 98 mph and touches 101 mph, a 97-mph sinker and an 89-mph changeup that opponents are hitting .089 (four for 45) against when they put it in play, is 5-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 45 games, striking out 61 and walking 21 in 47 2/3 innings.

Suarez retired the side in order in the eighth inning of Games 1 and 3 against the Mets, throwing seven pitches Friday night and striking out two Sunday night.

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9. Drury in

San Diego's Brandon Drury bats against the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 3.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

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It wasn’t a headline-grabbing move at the trade deadline, but the acquisition of veteran utility man Brandon Drury from Cincinnati could pay dividends in this series for the Padres, who have used the hard-nosed Drury mostly at first base and designated hitter.

The right-handed-hitting Drury, 30, batted .263 with an .813 OPS, 28 homers, 31 doubles and 87 RBIs on the season, including a .238 average, .724 OPS, eight homers, nine doubles and 28 RBIs in 46 games with the Padres. With three left-handers heading the Dodgers rotation, Drury should start several games.

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