That was... anticlimactic. In a good way. It was going to be a tall task for the padres to beat the Dodgers even with Clevinger healthy but no Lamet, and when Clevinger got hurt in the second inning of Game 1, forcing the Padres to go to their already overtaxed bullpen, the Dodgers got an advantage they wouldn't give back.
Game 1 was comprised of watching balls die on the warning track and playing small ball. The Dodgers drew 10 walks but were hitless until the 6th inning, where the offense pounced on Padres lefty Matt Strahm. The bullpen was great, with May, Gonzales, Treinen, and Jansen combining to give up only 1 hit over 5 innings of scoreless work. Buehler was... ok. He didn't have his command at all, and I don't know if it was his blister or something else. While he struck out 8 and only gave up 1 run in 4 innings, he also walked 4. 3 of those came in the second inning where he walked the first two batters, struck out one, walked one, and then struck out the next two. He did however reach 95 pitches, so he should be fully built up for what will probably be a start on Monday. The Dodgers hit a lot of balls that would be homers in other parks, but Globe Life Field just kills home runs. However, they adjusted, and got the job done.
Kershaw was pretty good in Game 2, pitching better than his 6 IP 3 ER line, as he gave up a run in the second and was cruising until he gave up back to back homers to Machado and Hosmer on pitches that were, in my opinion, not bad ones. His command was sharp and his fastball was 92-94, a very good sign for things to come. Against a great offense that sees him a lot, I'll take it. The offense had seen enough of those frustrating fly outs, as they pounded Zach Davies for singles and double, with Betts and Seager leading the way as usual and Austin Barnes collecting two hits and a walk. He's now 4-5 (all singles) in the postseason. Bellinger's homer off Davies in the fourth inning was the Dodgers' only home run of the series, and only second of the postseason, but it was hit to dead center in an impossible park to homer in and it wasn't a pitch in the zone, as Bellinger knee hit the ground during the swing. For him to hit a pitch like that is a great sign. He's been raking all postseason and, along with Max Muncy, who looks like himself again, is getting hot at the right time. The play of this game, was, however, that catch. Oh, you know, the one Bellinger made in the 7th inning to rob Fernando Tatis Jr. of a go-ahead home run. He had to run 97 feet and size up the warning track and wall of a ballpark in which he was playing hit fifth career game. It was just a ridiculous play, by far the best and most important catch I've ever seen. The Padres threatened in the 9th, but the Dodgers were able to hold them down (more on this later...) and take a 2-0 series lead.
Game 3 was a slaughter. While the Dodgers tried using May as an opener for Urias, they had Kolarek pitch the 2nd inning and he gave up two runs. While he gave up some hits, he walked a guy on a terrible call from the ump and one of the runs scored on an infield single. I'm going to attribute it to his having not pitched in a week and a half. Whatever, it was a tune-up. I generally don't like May as an opener, but I'm open to it with Urias because they're such different pitchers it messes up the other team. Urias was sensational, entering with the bases loaded in the second and striking out Tatis on 4 pitches to end the second inning. He retired 11 straight before giving up a hit and an error from Pollock in the 6th gave the Padres second and third with no outs. Urias balked in an (unearned) run but then got out of the jam with no trouble. His final line was 5 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 1 H, 1 BB. He's yet to give up an earned run in 8 innings this postseason and has 11 strikeouts. Offensively, the Dodgers just kept scoring runs, just moving the line and not bothering to tempt the baseball gods with homers in this park. They scored 5 runs in the top of the 3rd to answer the Padres' 2 in the bottom of the 2nd and never looked back. Everybody but Taylor had a hit, and Taylor had some very hard, well hit balls. Will Smith had 5, becoming the first Dodger and catcher to ever do so in a postseason game. Betts and Seager crushed the ball as usual and Muncy and Bellinger hits some rockets as well. My favorite part was seeing Joc Pederson hit and opposite field double to end a great AB, scoring two runs. The Padres used 11 pitchers, and we pretty much tattooed all of them. Baez and Floro both had great postseason debuts following Urias' clinic.
Obviously, the big thing here is Jansen. He hasn't been good at all in the postseason. the velocity's down and he's made some good pitches, but the overall command and body of work is very poor. Roberts has said he doesn't know what the closer situation means, and for him to say something like that, it mean's Jansen's probably not a part of that. To Jansen's credit, he's apparently open to whatever will help the team win the World Series. I personally don't care who pitches the ninth inning, I just want the best guys in our bullpen pitching against the best guys in the opposing lineup. Treinen pitched in all three games and is looking the best he has in weeks, although I wouldn't overextend him too much. Baez and Gonzales are both great options as well, and so is Graterol, who recovered from almost giving up the homer to Tatis with another great inning. The guy to utilize here, in my opinion, is Dustin May. He came out of the bullpen and threw two innings in Game 1 and was dazzling. Three strikeouts on 27 pitches in two perfect innings. I would rather have him do that every 2-3 days than make 1 or 2 starts. I would rather have Urias and Gonsolin doing bulk work than May, because his stuff plays better than their's does in high leverage relief roles and has also been used more this way. I want to see May throwing 101 mph fastballs and 99 mph sinkers out of the bullpen after a pitcher like Kershaw's gone 6 innings. What in the world is a team going to be able to do with that? The guy is filthy and incredibly reliable. I understand he might need to make a start in the NLCS if it goes long, but I want him to be the closer in the World Series should the Dodgers get there. He enters in the 7th or 8th and finishes the game. He is usually at his best in the first 50 or so pitches of his outings, making this make even more sense.
If the Dodgers keep playing the same way they are right now, nobody can beat them in a 7 game series. They haven't lost in 2.5 weeks. I'll have an article out tomorrow talking about what they need to do to beat the Braves, but right now, this team is clicking at the right time and they look like an unstoppable force of nature.