Dominant Dodgers, hot Padres bring SoCal rivalry to NLDS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The San Diego Padres knocked off the 101-win New York Mets in the National League wild-card series.

Awaiting them in the NL Division Series is an even bigger challenge: the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers.

“They’re hot and we’ve been hot for seven months,” a smiling — or was it smirking? — Dodgers slugger Freddie Freeman said Monday.

Call it a postseason Freeway Series.

“It’s going to be a very intense series,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Unlike the regular season.

The Southern California rivals were separated by a whopping 22 games in the NL West, with the Dodgers controlling first place for much of the time and the Padres finishing second.

“They handed it to us pretty good this year, so we realize what we’re up against,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “It feels a little bit better now that we’re not looking at the standings.”

That’s not the only way in which the Dodgers dominated the Padres. Los Angeles went 15-4 against them, never lost a series and outscored them 109-47.

As a result, the Dodgers are solid favorites coming into the best-of-five NLDS that begins Tuesday night in Los Angeles. In Game 1, right-hander Mike Clevinger takes the mound for the Padres against left-hander Julio Urías, a 17-game winner for the Dodgers.

Right-hander Yu Darvish, a 16-game winner, starts for the Padres in Game 2 on Wednesday against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young Award winner.

The Dodgers are well-rested, having been been off since closing out the regular season a week ago. While the Padres flew cross-country to outscore the Mets 16-8 in winning the wild-card series in three games, the Dodgers played simulated games in their empty stadium.

They gathered at a high-end steakhouse on Sunday night for a team dinner with the decisive Padres-Mets game on in the background. Watching Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove getting his ears checked for illegal substances by the umpire, “it got a little louder in the room,” Freeman said.

BOLSTERING THE RANKS

San Diego got better at the trade deadline by adding closer Josh Hader and two-time All-Star Juan Soto, who was a teammate of current Dodger Trea Turner on the Washington Nationals.

Hader closed out Game 3 against the Mets and Soto went 2 for 4 with two RBIs in the clincher.

The Dodgers signed Freeman in March, adding offensive punch to an already potent lineup. Freeman hit .325 and finished .001 points behind the Mets’ Jeff McNeil for the NL batting title.

ALMOST LIKE HOME

The last time the Padres were in the playoffs in a full season in front of fans in 2006, Roberts was their leadoff hitter and left fielder. He’ll be able to sleep in his own bed during the NLDS since he lives in the San Diego area.

BUEHLER’S NIGHT OUT

Walker Buehler will be on the mound for Game 2 on Wednesday — to toss out the ceremonial first pitch. The two-time All-Star who helped the Dodgers win the 2020 World Series had his second career Tommy John surgery in August. He’s not expected back until the 2024 season. Buehler was 6-3 with a 4.02 ERA in 12 starts this season before having surgery.

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