First off, I am a San Francisco Giants fan. Ergo while I will love this series, it’s Giants first for me. Have been since the mid ‘80s when I moved to Los Angeles and found the Dodger faithful about as lackadaisical a fan base as I have ever witnessed. Show up in the 3rd inning, leave in the 7th. Loved Dodger stadium, Dodger dogs, and the game. But the fans? Not so much. When I was able to go to the NLCS in 1985 and watched as Jack Clark cranked out a 3-run homer so the Cardinals could advance and leave the Dodgers at home and watch Pedro Guerrero throw his mitt up in the air in disgust, I smiled. The team may not have deserved this fate, but the fans did. The Dodger were up 2 games to nil and had lost 4 straight, with the last two being losses in the top of the 9th behind their closer Tom Niedenfeur, who was then dubbed Tom Need-in-fewer-games.
So, I jumped onto the Giants bandwagon and have been a fan ever since. After all, they were the Dodgers main rival no matter how far behind them that season they were as the Giants ended up an awful 62-100 in 1985. By 1987 I had moved from Los Angeles to northern California and the Giants were a team on the come. The rivalry grew more intense, intense enough that on April 21, 1987 in Candlestick Park, someone threw a battery (along with beer) at Dodgers first basemen Mike Marshall who made an ass of himself rounding the bases after hitting a 3-run homer. It wasn’t a car battery, don’t be ridiculous. I think it was a D and I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit him plus other small hard objects were tossed as well (and more beer). Hence, we started calling every Giants home game when they Dodgers came into town “Spark Plug & Battery Night.” Needless to say, security got beefed up a bit more.
The Giants fans were far more rabid. They had to be. Before the jewel the Giants play in now – Oracle Park – Candlestick Park was their home and was one of the worst stadiums ever. When you went to a game in July and sat in the cheap seats, you didn’t just bring a jacket, you brought a sleeping bag. The fog coming in off the bay was so cold it could turn a mild California summer day into a Midwestern winter one. 1988 saw the Dodgers get to the World Series and they upset the favored A’s led by a blindered Tony Larussa who just couldn’t see how his two main hitters went from normal big men to ginormous hulks. By 1989, the Giants had caught up and got to the World Series the summer I moved to Chicago. I intensely watched and cried. Not because they were swept by the A’s, but because of the devastating earthquake that hit during the beginning of Game 2.
I could go on and on about the Giants, Dusty Baker pulling the same crap Larussa did except this time it was one player rather than two, and the three World Series victories they captured in the ‘10s once they got a far better manager in Bruce Bochy… who came from the Padres. But this is not about the Giants, it’s about the current rivalry between the Dodgers and the Padres.
The Padres are a funny team. As Giants (and Dodgers fans TBH) we always thought nothing of them because in fact they pretty much were nothing. They had Tony Gwynn. That was it in our minds. Tony was an amazing hitter and we loved to watch him bat (Greg Maddux not so much LOL) if only because the Padres didn’t really ever amount to anything. Sure, they reached the World Series in 1984 and then in 1998, but they lost both. And they only got to the ’84 series because the Cubs Leon Durham misplayed a relatively easy grounder, the same kind of grounder two years later Red Sox Bill Buckner said “hey, Leon, I got you” and muffed one during the World Series. Naturally, at least according to both Dodger and Giants fandoms, the Padres got dominated by the Gibson-led Tigers in ’84 and swept by the Yankees in ‘98. We all know what Gibby did for the hated Dodgers in ’88 and I don’t want to rehash that, but you can.
As much as I hate to say it, this is supposed to be the year of the Dodger-Padres. So far it is has been spectacular. They’ve already faced each other for two series and seven games. They have four more series to go – one in late June, one on late August and the kicker, two series in September that may determine who takes the division.
A recap of the first set of series, already playoff intense as both teams are expected to be in the playoffs. No other teams in the NL are anywhere near as good as the Dodgers or the Padres. In fact, right now the NL East has no team over 500. Not one. The NL West? They have four.
In the first three games, held in Petco Park (home to the Padres), we saw game 1 going 12 innings, Fernando Tatis Jr coming off the injured list to hit a homer, a bench clearing incident in the 10th when Dodger Dennis Santana hit Jorge Mateo, and Corey Seager clubbing a 2-run shot in the 12th with the Dodgers eventually winning 11-6. That was just game 1. Game 2 cooled enough (there was another bench clearing incident) for Clayton Kershaw to pitch a gem. The game was secured for the Dodgers on an amazing catch by Mookie Betts in the ninth inning to rob Victor Caratini of a game-tying double. Game 3? The Padres came through. Down 2-0, the Padres plated a run in the 4th, a game-tying run in the 7th, then Tommy Pham hit a double to plate 2 after Eric Hosmer had tied the game on a run-scoring single where a tag play call was overturned from out to safe.
Whew! That was series 1.
Series 2 was a 4-game set in Dodger Stadium. Home games for the Dodgers – easy pickings, right? Wrong. Game 1 the Padres prevailed with a 3-2 victory fueled by a head-turning double play. The bottom of the eighth had the bags loaded with Dodgers and up comes Sheldon Neuse. Neuse had already tied the game at 2 with a homer. The man was hot and proved it by making a laser that caught Padres 2-bagger Jake Cronenworth in between hops. The ball ricocheted off Crony’s glove. He barehanded the ball, flipped it from his backside to a speedy Tatis, Jr who deftly kept touched second base then threw a bullet to first to catch Neuse by the space between an ant and the ground.
Now if you are keeping total score we are tied two games to two. On to Game 2 in Chavez Ravine. Before the game encapsulation, a bit of history. On April 23, 1999 Fernando Tatis, Sr – AKA Junior’s pappy – Hit two grand slams in a single inning as a member of the Cardinals. Amazing? True. Where at you ask? Dodger Stadium. This is not a bit of family lore the Tatis crew tends to forget. Junior was well aware of the feat. Inning 3 he launches a 431-foot blast off Clayton Kershaw. Two innings later, he tags Kershaw again for a 420-footer. Solo shots, but they propelled San Diego to a 6-1 victory.
Game 3 of 4. The Padres Blake Snell had the Dodgers guessing. He was pitching well, but when the Dodgers were putting a pair of righties up against him in the midst of the 5th inning, he was pulled. The Dodgers took advantage. Down 3-2 they put three runs across the dish. Despite Tatis Jr hitting yet another pair of homers (WHAT?! Yep.), the Dodgers held on to win 5-4.
Are we keeping score? Heck yes we are. Six games down for the season and we are tied three to three.
Game 4 of 4 and the final game before they meet again in late June. Let’s all settle back and have a quiet, normal baseball game, shall we? LOL – no. Entering the top of the 7th inning the Dodgers were up 7-1 and cruising behind starting pitcher wild-haired Dustin May (essentially a redheaded Weird Al Yankovic on the mound) who had allowed only 1 run via – you guessed it – a Fernando Tatis Jr homer – and that’s 5 in 3 games for those like me keeping count. Dodgers bring in David Price for the 7th. He allows 3 hits and 2 runs. It’s now 7-3. Still, a four-run lead with six outs to get. Top of the 8th. Padres chip away with a pair of singles scoring two runs. Dodgers do nothing in the bottom of the 8th. Dodgers 7-5. Top of the 9th. With two outs and two strikes on him, Fernando Tatis Jr hits a single, commencing the rally. The Padres proceed to score two behind singles from Trent Grisham and Manny Machado. Heading into the bottom of the 9th the game is tied 7-7. Who scored the tying run on the Machado single? Fernando Tatis Jr of course. The Dodgers do nothing in the bottom of the 9th. The 10th passes by without anything. The top of the 11th Eric Hosmer hits a sacrifice fly and the Padres win 8-7. Do I have to tell you scored the winning run? OK. Fine. Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Now us ardent baseball fans have to wait for nearly 2 months for a 3-game series in San Diego that begins right as the Summer Solstice ignites. After that, we twirl our collective bats for 2 more months until the end of August then they meet at Chavez Ravine for a Dodgers home series in the middle of September and a grand finale 3-game series at the end of the season, again in Dodger stadium. Cannot wait.
Then again, it may not mean a damn thing by then. The San Francisco Giants dropped 16 Ws in April and as of today, May 2nd? Giants are in first place. Take that Dodgers and Padres.