3 Takeaways from Dodgers’ Victory over Padres in NLDS Opener

jansen (1)
(Los Angeles Times photo)

With the way the first half of the NLDS opener against the Padres played out on Tuesday evening, fans of the Dodgers had much cause for concern, especially considering how their starting pitcher, righty Walker Buehler, was sporadically struggling with his command. In all, Buehler lasted just four full innings on a whopping 95 pitches, and by the time Dustin May took over in relief, Los Angeles found itself trailing by a 1-0 margin.

However, while both teams utilized their strong player depth throughout the game, it was the Dodgers who proved to be just a little more talented. Powered by a four-run seventh inning and a stellar bullpen showing, Los Angeles ultimately cruised to a 5-1 win. With ace Clayton Kershaw taking the bump on Wednesday night, the team is seemingly in the driver’s seat.

Here are three takeaways from the Game 1 victory:

THE OFFENSE IS STAYING PATIENT

Although it took almost six full innings for the Los Angeles offense to strike, it was patience once again that paid dividends. The Dodgers garnered an insane 10 walks in the opener, led by three from catcher Will Smith. Moreover, the Padres used nine different pitchers, which will surely be a factor down the road of the series.

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

Added Roberts, “Offensively, we weathered it and continued to take good at-bats and broke out. It’s patience and trust in your players. I saw that each guy was taking good at-bats, and I just believe that if they continue to do so, we’ll break out.”

While the Padres still haven’t decided on a starting pitcher for Game 2, the odds continue to stack up in the Dodgers’ favor in all aspects of the game.

BELLINGER AND MUNCY SHOWING SIGNS OF LIFE

Coming into the series, some fans of the team were very concerned about two of the club’s most potent sluggers, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy. Bellinger finished the regular season hitting just .239/.333/.455 after slashing .305/.406/.629 in his MVP campaign last year. Muncy hit .192/.331/.389 this year, which was down almost a full 60 points from his average in 2019. What’s more, with both players hitting smack dab in the middle of the lineup, there was potential for a cog, particularly if one of them continued to stay cold.

Nevertheless, both Bellinger and Muncy played key offensive roles in that explosive sixth inning. Muncy chipped in with a double, and Bellinger later rolled a single into right field that plated Justin Turner, stretching the Los Angeles lead to three. Additionally, both players each collected a walk. While they weren’t overwhelming outbursts, they still could be signs that both players are on the right track and could prove to be the start of something big as the postseason progresses.

THE BULLPEN LOOKS INPRESSIVE (FOR NOW)

Despite finishing 0.02 of a run shy of the MLB lead in bullpen ERA, the relief corps of the Dodgers faced plenty of scrutiny throughout the entire regular season. So far in the playoffs, the crew appears to be untouchable, as it has not allowed a single run over 11 full innings of work. Coincidentally,10 of those innings have come when Buehler has started.

“Before you guys ask anything, it’s hard to fathom what [Dustin] May, Victor Gonzalez, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen did tonight,” Buehler said after the game. “To come out and shut them down like that is a testament to what we do here, and I’ve got a lot of pride of being a part of this.”

Among the quartet, Gonzalez allowed the only hit. May struck out three batters over two full innings, touching 100 MPH on the radar gun on several occasions. Treinen had his sinker working well, punching out two batters over his 1-1/3 frames of work.

Even better, the breaks on Jansen’s cutter and slider were much improved compared to his other recent outings, and his velocity appeared to be trending in his normal 91-92 MPH range.

9 thoughts on “3 Takeaways from Dodgers’ Victory over Padres in NLDS Opener

  1. The Padres cannot take 3 of 4 against the Dodgers. I do not care how good their pen has been, those guys are going to be gassed by the end of this series. Game reminded me a lot of the game Cueto was pitching against them earlier this season. He had a no hitter into the 6th and a misplayed ball by Pence opened the gates. Last night the bad throw by Cronenworth allowed them to tie the game, and then the next inning they found the range. Great situational hitting since that park has been keeping the balls in play. BP looked good. Buehler striking out two Pads with the bases loaded was HUGE.

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  2. Agreed, Bear … the Bellinger play surely did open up the offense. As an infielder myself, that throw should have been caught. Did you notice how the first baseman had his legs all tangled up, and not even on the base. He was trying to do too many things at once … it happens. I also thought Buehler’s two strike outs were huge! Let’s hope Kersh repeats his last outing tonight … strike a big blow while the Padre’s are reeling a bit.

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    1. Friars are pitching Davies tonight. He was 0-2 against LA this year. Only gave up 5 runs though. And only 1 HR. I do not think the HR is going to play a huge role in this series judging by the way the ball is not carrying so far. Bad news is that Angel Hernandez is the homeplate ump.

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  3. I’m sorry I know Kenley makes a lot of money but he should not be the closer on this team with better options. He’s a shell of what he used to be.

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  4. Too close for comfort. My only regret is that Kelly did not strike out that punk Machado to end the game. It would have served him right after all the bull he pulled when Belli caught Tatis’s drive for the last out. Graterol got a little revenge when he got Machado to start the next inning. I will lose what little hair I have left if this keeps up. But I really believe LA goes for the jugular tomorrow. Good omen, both Muncy and Belli’s bats are waking up. Barnes is hotter than hotter than hell sauce, Smith is hitting in bad luck again, and Joc should not hit again in this series. He looks like he is not really into what is happening.

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  5. Man, I felt drained when it was finally over. Robert’s does many things right, but again last night, he almost lost this one for us. Using Jansen and Kelly just wasn’t smart baseball. Joc hitting for AJ, again the wrong move. Sometimes I don’t know what the man is thinking.

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    1. “Sometimes I don’t know what the man is thinking.” Of course, you don’t know what he and the Dodger’s brain trust are thinking. They have their analytics dept., scouting reports, and inputs from up and down the organization. Plus Roberts knows what’s going on in the locker room, the training room, and the bullpen. We don’t.
      ” Using Jansen and Kelly just wasn’t smart baseball.” The fact is the Dodgers haven’t had a shutdown reliever all season. No one in the mold of a Rivera or Chapman at the top of their game. So Dodger bullpen strategy will always look like a high-wire act. Whatever happens the Dodgers did the best they know how with the information and personnel they have.
      Enjoy the game for what it is. It will never be as perfect as we want it to be.

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      1. Well Waldo … I’m not one to argue, but please don’t speak down to me. Jansen had thrown the night before, and he almost always does worse in successive stints. As for Kelly, there’s been little to no consistency all year. I’ve played and coached for 65 years, little league through college, and my thinking is that there is too much analytics, and not enough common sense baseball. You are certainly free to disagree …

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