SAN DIEGO – The first two games of the Dodgers series in San Diego this weekend drew the 23rd and 24th sold-out crowds of the season for the Padres, their most equalizing in a season at Petco Park.
Many of those tickets were undoubtedly bought long ago in anticipation of a gripping September series between two teams vying for supremacy in the NL West.
Well, at least there were tacos.
Freddie Freeman had four hits and drove in four runs as the Dodgers got one step closer to capturing their ninth NL West title in the past 10 years by turning over the San Diego Padres 8-4 Saturday night.
It was the 53rd of their 95 wins this season in which the Dodgers beat their opponent by four or more points – dropping their magic number to take the division to four.
The Dodgers could earn a postseason berth on Sunday and the division title as early as Tuesday in Arizona.
If they take home the division at the end of this road trip this Sunday, it will be the first time they have secured the division title during this decade of dominance. The previous earliest clinch came in 2019 when they secured the division in the 146th game of the season (and 21 games finished second-place Arizona Diamondbacks).
“I think we all know what kind of edge we have,” Freeman said. “But if you start looking at that… leads can evaporate if you get a little relaxed. I like the way we play games. Even yesterday’s game was just a good baseball game. We just have to keep the foot on the pedal until we grab it and when we do, we keep going after that too. ”
Manny Machado hit a pair of solo homeruns on Saturday off of Dodgers starter Julio Urias. But the rest of the Padres’ lineup went smoothly. Urias gave up only three other basehits, walked two and struckout five.
“He’s incredible, man,” Trea Turner said of Urias. “I’ve seen it from the other side. I don’t think people really see the ball well from him. He has three good pitches. He competes. Every now and then he drops a little. But his stuff has been electric lately. I feel like fastball has been really, really good. He makes sure people just miss here and there. I think he is also very good, when he gets into trouble or when he makes a mistake, to pick himself up and make the next throw. I think he’s really good at that. And that is difficult to do.”
Urias tested that in the first inning. His two walks loaded the bases in the first inning when only 10 of his first 21 pitches were strikes. He knocked out Jake Cronenworth to escape that threat unscathed and only struggled the rest of the way with Machado, making it through seven innings on just 83 pitches.
The two runs were the most allowed Urias since July 29 in Colorado. He hasn’t given up more than two at once since July 10.
Now 16-7, Urias’ ERA (2.30) is the lowest among qualified National League pitchers and his WHIP (0.95) is second only to Arizona’s Zac Gallen (0.92), making an even stronger case for the NL Cy Young Award than he did as the winner of 20 games last season.
“I’m having a hard time coming up with adjectives to describe him and what he’s done for us,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
“I certainly don’t have a voice. But it’s hard to ignore what this man does for a championship ball club. You’re talking about Cy Young. He wasn’t an All-Star this year for some ridiculous reason. So to be in that Cy Young conversation, I think that’s the word.”
The Dodgers’ offense took time to get going against a former Cy Young winner, Padres lefthander Blake Snell.
They got some help to score a run in the third inning when Padres midfielder Jose Azocar and rightfielder Juan Soto fell short on Trea Turner’s drive into the hole, facing each other as the ball landed cleanly and bounced off the wall for a while . triple. Freeman cashed in with a two-out RBI single.
Two innings later, the Dodgers kicked it into gear and drove Snell out of the game with a four-run outburst. Turner found another hole this time and drove a basesloaded double off the wall into left midfield. The three runs scored brought Turner’s RBI total for the season to 94.
Freeman drove into Turner with a double of his own – his leading and career high 45th double of the season.
In the seventh, the Dodgers broke it open with another multi-run inning, scoring twice on a Freeman homerun and another RBI single by Chris Taylor.
After finishing a run of 87 at bats without a homerun by going deep on Monday against the Giants, Freeman has three homeruns in five games and 10 hits in his last 19 at bats.
“Freddie has just been so consistent with his at bat quality, through all phases of the game,” said Roberts. “Even yesterday I thought he swung the bat really well and only had a hit to show, the homer (in Friday’s loss). But tonight I just came back, took great at bats and used most of the field. Walks, snails, everything.”