Dodgers show their prizefighter instincts in comeback victory over Padres

Dodgers center fielder James Outman, right, celebrates with Michael Busch after hitting a two-run home run.
Dodgers center fielder James Outman, right, celebrates with Michael Busch after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning of a 5-2 comeback win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Sunday night.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Dodgers survived blow after blow. They absorbed punch after punch.

For eight innings Sunday, they were outhit, outfielded and outplayed by the San Diego Padres, seemingly destined for a rubber-match loss and series defeat against their National League West rivals.

But then Mookie Betts landed a game-saving hook, tying the score with a two-out home run in the ninth.


Michael Busch delivered a go-ahead jab, putting the Dodgers in front with an RBI single in the 10th.

The roster overhaul the San Diego Padres underwent last offseason won’t necessarily protect the team from losing to the Dodgers like they did Sunday.

May 7, 2023

And after wobbling for much of the night, and grinding through long stretches in their first trip back to Petco Park since last year’s playoff elimination, the Dodgers finally produced a knockout smash, getting a two-run home run from James Outman that clinched a 5-2 extra-innings victory and cemented an important early-season series win.

“I don’t know about a statement,” manager Dave Roberts said when asked about the significance of the result. “But I just think that it was good for us to come in here, in a fun environment, and win a series.”

After losing Friday’s opener and narrowly navigating a one-run win Saturday, the Dodgers (21-14) began Sunday’s nationally televised finale on their back foot.

They made two outfield mistakes in the first inning — Outman misread one fly ball for a leadoff double, and Betts dropped another while backing up at the track — that led to a pair of early runs for the star-studded Padres (18-17).

They managed little at the plate against San Diego starter Joe Musgrove, going hitless through four innings and scoreless until Will Smith’s RBI double in the sixth.

Dodgers star Mookie Betts rounds the bases after hitting a tying home run in the ninth inning.
Dodgers star Mookie Betts rounds the bases after hitting a tying home run in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Sunday.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

But for a new-look Dodgers team that Roberts already has praised for its poise — particularly amid the external hype of this weekend’s rivalry renewal, in which Clayton Kershaw and Betts were mocked by signage on the scoreboard and stands, respectively — they managed to hang around, stay within striking distance and at the end finally overcome all the setbacks.

Down to the final out in the ninth inning against dominant Padres closer Josh Hader, Betts came to the plate and worked a 3-and-1 count.

The former most valuable player knew what would be coming next, preparing for a trademark sinking fastball from the long-haired, left-handed reliever.

The surprise, at least to Roberts as he watched from the side, was that Hader’s ensuing heater “just didn’t have the life that it normally does.”

That was all Betts needed to snap an 0-for-10 skid in the series.

He pulled in his hands, flicked the barrel at the inner-half offering and watched the ball sail into the left-field stands.


“He’s the best player on the field, and he’s always gotta believe that,” Roberts said.

“Today he had an opportunity, and he clutched it up for us.”

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías throws against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Dodgers’ closing flurry was just getting started.

Busch broke the 2-2 tie in the 10th, lining a single to left field while playing his first game in five days.

“There’s nothing like it,” Busch said of his first game-winning hit at the major league level. “It’s pretty sweet to help this team get a win, especially in a place like this.”

Fellow rookie Outman put things out of reach in the next at-bat, golfing a towering, two-run drive into the short right-field porch for his eighth home run of the season.

“That was convenient right there,” Outman joked of wall 322 feet away. “I didn’t really think I got it. But yeah, that was cool.”

Maintaining the same low-key stance they’d taken, the Dodgers brushed off suggestions of extra motivation or increased significance behind this weekend’s series.


Outman echoed the sentiments of his veteran teammates when asked about the hoopla surrounding the matchup.

“Focusing on that kind of stuff is never good,” Outman said.

The Dodgers’ Southern California rivalry with the San Diego Padres could soon be going to South Korea for a regular-season series in 2024.

May 7, 2023

Betts laughed off the large banner that was directed his way by Padres fans Saturday night.

“That’s just tactics to try and get under our skin, make us act out of character,” Betts said.

“We got a lot of vets in here that know how to handle ourselves, no matter what the outside says or does.”

Roberts, meanwhile, declined to even engage such a discussion before the game, responding to a question about the meme of a crying Kershaw that flashed on the scoreboard Friday night by saying he was “surprised” but had been instructed not to comment.

Instead, sitting with a victorious margarita on his desk hours later, the manager pointed to other factors that led to the Dodgers’ Sunday night win.

He noted Julio Urías’ strong 52/3 innings, in which the left-hander gave up no more runs after the team’s defense-challenged first inning.


Roberts highlighted the performance of the bullpen, which continued its recent upswing by combining for 41/3 scoreless innings.

Most of all, Roberts focused on the fortitude he saw embodied by his team, which weathered an early barrage, picked itself up off the mat and rallied for a win that certainly felt like an early-season message to its in-state rivals — even if the Dodgers were careful not to acknowledge it.

“For us to hang in there ... was huge,” Roberts said. “We play every out. It’s kind of been who we have been. There’s some new players, but it’s good to see guys are buying into that.”