The Dodgers wound up winning a 4-hour, 57-minute classic, 11-6, in 12 innings, a game featuring everything from Padres starter Joe Musgrove playing left field, to a bench-clearing scrum, to Dodgers starter David Price getting a save, a victory and a sacrifice fly in 24 hours, to Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth striking out Dodgers star Mookie Betts.
Welcome to baseball’s newest, loudest and gnarliest rivalry.
“I was kind of thinking about that,’’ Price said, “all rivalries in baseball are really good, but once you get that first bench-clearing, whatever happens, that’s when it kind of goes to that next level.
“This is a good rivalry to be part of.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who makes his home in San Diego, insisted before the game that there’s more to a rivalry than just geography, says that after this exhausting night, he has changed his mind.
“It felt like a rivalry tonight,’’ Roberts said. “I’m very hesitant to get ahead of things but it was like a playoff game. They deployed a lot of guys; we deployed a lot of guys. The intensity was there. A lot of energy. A lot of focus. The crowd was great. We responded. They answered back. They kept fighting. We kept fighting.
“It had everything. It was incredible. It’s kind of hard for me to process right now.
“I’m just spent emotionally.’’
The 40 players, including 17 pitchers, who played in the game, and the 15,250 in attendance shared the same sentiment.
If this is just the opening act in a 19-game set between these two teams, what could be in store for the rest of the season?
San Diegans hate Los Angeles, and everything about it. They consider L.A. overcrowded, smoggy and dripping with arrogance.
“We’ve always felt overshadowed by L.A.,’’ Padres owner Ron Fowler, who has lived in San Diego since 1974, told USA TODAY Sports. “People here never wanted to become another L.A. They want to maintain the small-town feel.
“They’re the big guy. We’re the little guy.
“We don’t ever want to be like L.A.’’
If you really want to get San Diegans riled up, bring up the fact that Los Angeles also stole two of their sports franchises, with the NFL’s Chargers and NBA’s Clippers moving to L.A. through the years.
“The city still hasn’t gotten over that,” said John Boggs, the San Diego-based agent who represented Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. “If you’re from San Diego, and especially if you’re born in San Diego, you grow up hating Los Angeles and the Dodgers.’’
This is why this series means so much to the Padres and their fans.
“Well, we have to win before you can call it a rivalry,’’ said Fowler, well aware that the Padres have never won a World Series with only six playoff appearances in 52 years. “Frankly, people are a lot more convinced we are going for it now, and these two teams are a lot closer.
“I think we’re a better team than we’ve been in a long, long time. But the Dodgers are probably as good as they’ve been in a long time, too, maybe better than ever with that starting rotation.’’
Maybe so, but the Padres certainly showed no fear, or the slightest bit of intimidation Friday.
“We have a lot of confidence,’’ Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We’re going to play with a swag.”
The Padres, with Fernando Tatis Jr. making his return, certainly gave the Dodgers fits all evening. The Padres led in the second inning, only for the Dodgers to tie in the fifth, and the Padres to take the lead again in the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers took the lead back in the sixth. The Padres tied it in the eighth. The Dodgers went ahead in the ninth, only for the Padres to tie it again with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Then, it got really wild.
There was the scoreless 10th, highlighted by Dodgers pitcher Dennis Santana hitting pinch-hitter Jorge Mateo. Mateo staring down Santana. Santana walked towards Mateo. The benches cleared. A fan ran onto the field. And order was restored with no punches, shoves or ejections.
A scoreless 11th with Price, who recorded his first career regular-season save Thursday night, coming into the game when he was told he wouldn’t be used.
And then the zany 12th with the Padres out of pitchers, and having to use Cronenworth to pitch for the first time in his major-league career with Musgrove making his debut in left field.
Dodgers outfielder Luke Raley, who hit his first career homer in the fifth inning, was asked if he had ever part part of a game so intense.
“It’s on another level,’’ Raley said. “It’s incomparable. It’s absolutely the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.’’
Yes, quite the dramatic night in Game 1 of what Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner called, “19 World Series games.’’
“We’re going to face these guys quite a bit this season,’’ Musgrove said, “and we expect to see them late when the games matter the most. I think this is going to be a tone setter for how these series are going to (be) the rest of the season.”
Perhaps, but there’s nothing like drama, too, with these two teams showing their disdain for one another last year.
“Having a little history with them in the postseason last year,’’ Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer said, “I think that will maybe spice things up a little bit.’’
It was last season when the Padres and Dodgers screamed at one another when Tatis slammed into Dodgers catcher Will Smith during a rundown. Later in the year, Padres outfielder Trent Grisham hit a game-tying homer off Kershaw. He stood and watched with the Dodgers screaming at him, only for Grisham to slowly stroll around the bases and stomp on home plate.
They met again in the Division Series when Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger robbed Tatis of a homer, and Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol celebrated by flinging his cap into the air like a frisbee. Manny Machado, who flipped his bat earlier in the game after a homer, screamed at Graterol. Graterol blew him a kiss. Machado yelled even more. Betts waved his hands at Machado to go away.
And now the bench-clearing incident in their first game together Friday.
“It was always a rivalry,’’ said Boggs, “but now there’s bad blood mixed in.’’
They went out and traded for former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. They traded for Chicago Cubs ace Yu Darvish, who finished second in last year’s Cy Young race. They acquired Musgrove from the Pittsburgh Pirates. And they dropped $340 million on Tatis just to make sure he can terrorize the Dodgers for the next 14 years.
“The risk of doing nothing is far greater than the risk of trying to build a real team,’’ Padres chairman Peter Seidler repeatedly said after each big move this winter. “People that I care about were saying, ‘You’re crazy, do you know there’s a pandemic going on?’