MLB got what they wanted with a Padres-Dodgers matchup in the NLDS.
Two former Most Valuable Players vs. baseball’s budding superstar. Professional dominance vs. electric flamboyance. Whatever you want to call it, the meeting between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the NLDS next week is sure to be one thing: a lot of fun.
The Dodgers have Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, MVPs from the last two seasons. Betts put on another award-worthy performance in 2020, his first in Dodgers blue, hitting .292 with 16 home runs and 39 runs batted in. Clayton Kershaw vanquished ghosts of postseasons past on Thursday with eight shutout innings and 13 strikeouts to close out the Brewers. The Dodgers finished the regular season with the most wins in the league and entered the postseason with the status of World Series favorites.
If the Dodgers are baseball’s best team, the Padres just might be the most fun. It starts from the man who leads them, 21-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis plays the game with captivating enthusiasm. After hitting his second home run to guide the Padres past the Cardinals in Game 2, he set social media ablaze and made “old school” traditionalists cringe with a highlight-worthy bat flip.
Again, in Friday’s deciding game that saw the Padres get past the Cardinals 4-0, it was his special talents that were on full display. In the third inning, he managed to snare an off-target throw while keeping his foot on the bag for a force-out at second base. His 108.9 mph double down the left-field line in the fifth inning off Jack Flaherty led to the Padres’ first run of the game. And, with two outs in the eighth inning and a runner at first base, he made a diving catch just off the outfield grass to rob Paul DeJong of a hit.
Tatis wasn’t even born the last time the Padres won a playoff series, in 1998, but they’re quickly emerging as baseball’s glamor team. They’re young and super talented. Tatis, Adrian Morejon and 20-year-old Luis Patino all played on Friday, making the Padres the first team in postseason history to have three players aged 21 years and 245 days or younger in the same game.
Padres vs. Dodgers is a dream come true for MLB
The Padres’ reward for getting past the Cardinals is the club that beat them for the NL West title. The Dodgers took the season series 6-4 and outscored San Diego by 12 runs in their meetings. Los Angeles is deep and motivated to finally lift the World Series trophy after eight consecutive division titles.
The Padres, though, may have some good news by the time the series begins in Arlington next Tuesday. Mike Clevinger, the pitcher the Padres gave up six players for at the trade deadline, missed the Wild Card round with an elbow injury but reportedly felt “great” after a bullpen session on Friday. Dinelson Lamet, a Cy Young Award candidate who, like Clevinger, watched the series against the Cardinals from the stands, may also be ready to pitch in the next round.
The Dodgers-Padres series will be everything MLB could’ve hoped for this postseason: superstars on both sides; a Padres team that plays a brand of baseball sure to expand the game’s reach beyond just purists; and a long division rivalry where tempers might flare up.
Buckle up, because the NLDS will be one wild ride.