SAN DIEGO — There’s nothing that fuels a rivalry more than hatred and hot tempers, with some bench-clearing skirmishes mixed in.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have bought into the concept, and are delivering in style.
Saturday, for the second consecutive night at Petco Park, these two West Coast clubs reminded everyone that they can’t stand one another with yet another incident of wild gestures, taunts and obscenities filling the San Diego air.
The incident in Round 2 of this new fierce rivalry – which saw the Dodgers win again, 2-0 – overshadowed a brilliant pitching duel between Dodgers Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and former teammate Yu Darvish, and one of the finest game-ending, and game-saving, catches you’ll ever see by center fielder Mookie Betts.
Mookie Betts saves the day for the Dodgers! pic.twitter.com/lNkcfFYVis
Still, the talk focused on the fourth inning skirmish with Kershaw screaming and pointing his finger at Padres first baseman Jurickson Profar after a catcher’s interference call:
“That a (expletive) swing!
“That’s a (expletive) swing!’’ Kershaw bellowed.
Profar responding by saying:
“Shut the (expletive) up!
“Shut the (expletive) up!’’
Nothing makes a rivalry quite like a little extra-curricular activity, fueling the intensity and animosity between these two ultra-talented teams.
How else can you explain how a catcher’s interference replay review turned into a furious outburst from Kershaw, an outraged reaction from Profar, and saw both benches climb over the dugout railings, poised to brawl if needed?
The @Padres and Dodgers find themselves in another brouhaha!#HungryForMorepic.twitter.com/7ezSadMdPK
It happened with two outs in the fourth inning when Kershaw struck out Profar on a 92-mph fastball. But when Profar swung late, almost as if he wanted to check his swing when the ball was already past him, his bat clipped the glove of catcher Austin Barnes.
Home-plate umpire Tom Hallion called Profar out. Kershaw and the Dodgers ran off the field. But Profar remained at the plate, gesturing that it should be catcher’s interference.
He pleaded to Hallion, called out Padres manager Jayce Tingler to argue on his behalf, and the umpiring crew huddled on the infield.
“It was just really late,’’ Roberts said. “I saw the ball in Barnes’ glove. Obviously, I didn’t understand the rule. I’m protecting a catcher. You can break a guy’s hand.’’
No one was quite sure what they saw, so Hallion walked over to the replay headset. Before Hallion could even listen to what the crew in New York saw, Kershaw screamed at Profar, and pointed his left finger at him.
He turned towards the dugout, took a step, and repeated himself, jabbing his finger again towards Profar.
Profar, standing on first base, convinced he would be proven right, realized Kershaw was screaming at him.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw yells at the Padres' Jurickson Profar during the fourth inning. (Photo: Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images)
He wildly waved his left hand, and cursed at him.
Then his right hand, cursing again.
His right hand again, as if he was telling Kershaw to go away.
And again with his right hand, now starting to walk towards him.
And then with his left, with Padres first base coach Wayne Kirby now making sure he went no further.
Tempers cooled. The replay booth ruled that Profar’s back swing definitively hit Barnes’ glove. The Dodgers went back onto the field, Kershaw induced a fly ball from Jake Cronenworth for the third out, and it was just baseball for the rest of the night.
“That’s a little scary,’’ Kershaw said. “Barnes could have been seriously injured on that play. He basically swung straight down and backwards. I'm not saying it was intentional, but that was not a big league swing.’’
The swing was so late, Kershaw said, that he suggested to Hallion that he might as well do that every time he steps to the plate to reach base.
Well, Kershaw got the last laugh.
Round 1: Padres-Dodgers rivalry comes to life
Finally: Jacob deGrom nearly ties MLB record while striking out 14, gets first win of 2021 as Mets clip Rockies
The Padres, who had gone 52 years without a no-hitter until Joe Musgrove broke through last week, looked for a while this night like they might have their second in eight days. Darvish was that dominant. He retired the first 14 batters he faced, permitting only one ball to leave the infield.
Yet, once he hit Zach McKinstry on the foot on a 72-mph curveball, he appeared to lose his focus. Luke Raley followed with a soft single to center. Darvish then loaded the bases by walking Barnes, bringing up Kershaw.
“I was just trying to be annoying really,’’ Kershaw said. “I wasn’t going to get a hit off him. He has too good of stuff. I was just trying to be a nuisance to him, fouling off pitches.’’
It worked like a charm, with Kershaw drawing an eight-pitch, bases-loaded walk.
“It was the difference,’’ Roberts said, “in the game.’’
It was Darvish’s only real mistake of the night, as he gave up just one hit in seven innings while striking out nine. He was sensational. But this is the Dodgers. You make a mistake to this juggernaut, and they make you pay the price.
Kershaw, the Padres’ kryptonite ever since he entered the league, never let them recover. He gave up just two hits and struck out eight in six innings, and is now 22-7 with a 1.99 ERA in 41 career starts against the Padres.
“Classic, vintage Kersh,’’ said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who added a homer in the ninth. “The guy’s just a gamer.’’
Turn it up. pic.twitter.com/2bAXXaXAhT
Yet, it could have been all for naught if not for Betts. The Padres rallied in the ninth, had runners on second and third with two outs, when Tommy Pham hit a sinking line drive to the right-center gap that had the crowd of 15,250 screaming.
The ball had a 10% chance of being caught, according to Statcast. But then again, Betts is not your ordinary outfielder. He sprinted to his left, dove, and with his glove outstretched, snared the ball less than an inch before it would have hit the ground.
Betts, still on his knees, pounded his chest once, twice, three, four times, screaming into the air. Pham, standing on first base, grabbed his helmet, staring in disbelief.
“I just kind of blacked out,’’ Betts said. “I was kind of in the moment. I just knew when the ball went up, I had to catch it, and that’s what I did.’’
Says Roberts: “The jump, the line to the ball, and still snare the ball. ..That’s why he’s arguably the best all-around player in baseball.’’
MARKUS LYNN BETTS. pic.twitter.com/jeU6UnOBc9
The Dodgers, who came into town hearing all of the noise that the Padres are ready to end their eight-year reign as division champions, have now won the first two rounds of this best-of-19 season series, breaking the Padres’ hearts each night.
They win in 12 innings in nearly five hours the first night, and make a game-saving catch the next, with chirping, yelling and swearing becoming part of the series’ fabric.
“They’re a good club,’’ Roberts said. “Obviously, we knew that. We knew it was going to be emotional and intense coming here.
“It’s certainly lived up to the billing.’’
Oh, and then some.
But while the games have been competitive and drama-filled, the Padres still can’t beat the Dodgers. L.A. is now 13-2, the greatest start ever by a defending World Series champion. It's the best start in franchise history.
The Dodgers are on a pace – ready for this – to go 140-22.
The Dodgers, who already have a 4½-game lead two weeks into the season, are awfully good.
Maybe better than ever.
“This team is one of the best groups I’ve ever been around,’’ Turner said, “and we’re executing that. We’re just trying to figure out how to win a game.’’
And making sure this rivalry keeps on staying one-sided.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
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