Dodgers turn their Juan Soto loss into a win over Padres
Dave Roberts insisted it wouldn’t be a litmus test.
After the drubbing his team inflicted Friday, maybe he should have.
On a night that began with an emotional on-field ceremony commemorating the late Vin Scully, and that was supposed to showcase a supposedly revamped San Diego Padres roster following Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Dodgers instead cruised to an 8-1 win, extending their recent dominance over the rivalry while picking up their sixth consecutive win.
“Obviously, the anticipation outside of the ballplayers is there,” Roberts said. “But the messaging has been consistent on our part, just focusing on ourselves and playing good baseball.”
That, the Dodgers did in the series opener.
They struck for four runs in the bottom of the first, twice benefiting from a misplay by Brandon Drury at third base to surge in front.
They doubled their lead with four more runs in the second, burying Padres starter Sean Manaea on two-run doubles from Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger.
They salted away the series opener from there, receiving five scoreless innings out of starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin and little late resistance from their visitors, who entered the series riding high from their flurry of deadline moves.
“They definitely got better,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “But we took care of business tonight.”
For Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader and Drury — the Padres four high-profile additions — it was their first time losing to the Dodgers in a brown and yellow uniform.
For their Padres teammates, however, Friday was nothing new.
The Dodgers are 6-2 against the Padres this year and have won 15 of the last 17 meetings dating to last year.
They stretched their NL West lead to 131/2 games, a seemingly insurmountable advantage with two months remaining in the regular season.
And, intentional or not, the Dodgers (73-33) delivered what felt like an emphatic rebuke of the Padres deadline scramble — which was highlighted by them outbidding the Dodgers in a blockbuster move for Soto.
“It is what it is,” Roberts said when asked about the Soto trade. “He’s a great player. It certainly makes our job a little bit harder, a lot harder. But there’s nothing we can do. We’re not going to run from it.”
The Dodger Stadium crowd sure didn’t.
Barely a week after serenading Soto with “Future Dodger!” chants when he visited as a member of the Nationals, the 23-year-old outfielder was greeted by a chorus of boos during his first trip to the plate Friday.
It was one of the few times a sellout crowd of 52,714 did something other than cheer.
After taking part in the pregame ceremony — in which Roberts led the stadium in reciting Scully’s famous phrase, “It’s time for Dodger baseball” — they roared to life when Drury threw away a bases-loaded grounder in the first, allowing the game’s first two runs to score.
They were on their feet again moments later, when Hanser Alberto hit a two-hopper past Drury and down the line for a two-run double, then once more in the third when Taylor, who was playing his first game in a month because of a foot fracture, and Bellinger tacked on two-run doubles.
Gonsolin, meanwhile, settled down after a laborious first two innings, going on to complete his fifth start of at least five shutout innings this season.
And the game was so far out of reach by the seventh, Soto was replaced for a couple of innings of rest.
Friday’s result aside, the Padres (61-48) still seem like much bigger threats than they did during their previous visit a month ago, when they were nearly swept in a four-game series in which their offense scored just eight runs total.
“You certainly have to give Padres ownership, Peter Seidler, a lot of credit,” said Roberts, a former Padres player and coach who said he’d never seen the franchise with so much buzz. “When people are talking about the Dodgers and the Padres, the National League West, big trades, spending money on great players — I think we all win.”
The Dodgers don’t seem infallible, either, with their pitching staff taking another blow Friday when starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was placed on the injured list because of low back pain — an issue the Dodgers hope will keep the left-hander sidelined for no more than about a month.
“He’s certainly frustrated, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Roberts said. “I think his only focus is to do what we can to get him back as soon as possible, and healthy.”
For now, though, any thoughts about the Padres challenging the Dodgers’ NL supremacy will have to wait.
Their lineup might be more imposing. Their roster is undoubtedly deeper.
But on Friday, the Dodgers’ recent torment of the Padres persisted. Not even a new-look Padres roster could prevent more of the same.