Backed by a solid bullpen, Dodgers beat Padres once again to take Game 1 of NLDS

LOS ANGELES – Some things just never change. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their dominance over the San Diego Padres. 

The Dodgers took the lead in the first inning, let the Padres hang around, and won 5-3 in a game that wound up closer than the Dodgers envisioned in front of a sellout crowd of 52,407 at Dodger Stadium. 

The Padres tried to convince anyone who’d listen that they had everything going for them this series, riding momentum from New York, the Dodgers perhaps rusty sitting around LA with their first-round bye, but in the end, it was the same ol’ story. 

The Dodgers  are 15-5 this season against the Padres and now 1-0 in the best-of-five NL Division Series. 

If the Padres are going to have a chance in this series, they’ll need a victory by ace Yu Darvish against future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw in Game 2 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers relief pitcher Alex Vesia gets out of the seventh inning.

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“This is a different team,’’ Padres manager Bob Melvin says. “We like our chances.’’ 

The Padres, if nothing else, created plenty of drama in the middle innings when they scored three runs off starter Julio Urias, ending his night after five innings, and threatened for much more in the sixth. 

Juan Soto led off the sixth with a walk. Manny Machado got aboard on a dribbler down the third base line that barely stayed fair. But pinch-hitter Josh Bell struck out, and Wil Myers hit a bullet towards right field only for Gavin Lux to snare it, flipped it to shortstop Trea Turner, who fired to first baseman Freddie Freeman for the brilliant double play. 

The Dodgers looked as if they were going to rout the Padres early, with Turner hitting a home run five pitches into the game, and the Dodgers having a 5-0 lead after three innings. 

The lead seemed insurmountable considering the Dodgers are 46-1 this season when leading by five or more runs, but give the Padres credit for sticking around and making the Dodgers a bit queasy. 

The Padres bullpen made sure the Padres stuck around, completely shutting down the Dodgers offense after Mike Clevinger was knocked out of the game after 2 ⅔ innings. The bullpen never permitted a hit to the 19 Dodgers’ batters they faced, retiring the final 14 batters. 

The Dodgers bullpen did their part, too, stuffing any visions of a Padres’ comeback by pitching four shutout innings, never permitting another baserunner to reach second base.

“We have to give a lot of credit to our offense,” Urías said through a translator. “They did a good job battling, getting those runs early and putting us in a good spot to win.”

Still, the fact the Padres kept it close was an encouraging sign that at least they can make this an intriguing series. This is a team that had a gruesome slash line of .180/.257/.286 in 10 games at Dodger Stadium, and eked out six hits, including a solo homer by Myers. 

“We felt like we had a chance in the latter innings to win this game,” said Melvin. “I think everybody is pretty eager to get back out here again.”

Then again, when the Dodgers have only four players who managed to get a hit – Turner, Will Smith, Max Muncy and Lux – their starter lasting just five innings, and they still win, that’s a pretty good sign of a powerful team. 

Well, one down, 10 more victories to go, and a World Series title will cement one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. 

“That’s our goal,’’ Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman says. 

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