SAN DIEGO — Round 1 to the Dodgers, 18 more to go.
At least 18, that is. Sign us up for a few of these in October, too.
The best game of the season so far — and, buddy, is it going to be tough to top this one — saw game-tying rallies by the Padres in the eighth and ninth innings, a benches-clearing kerfuffle in extras, go-ahead home runs by both superstar shortstops, two closers pitching multiple innings in April — and, to cap it all off, second baseman Jake Cronenworth pitching to reliever David Price, who hit a fly ball to starting pitcher Joe Musgrove in left field.
“It had everything, it really did,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And the pitcher to make the play in left field, it was incredible. It’s hard for me to kind of process this one right now. I’ll take the win and probably not even try and think through this game again and just get ready for tomorrow.”
As far as drama goes, it had all the trappings of October baseball in mid-April. In case you missed it, these are the seven craziest things to happen during the Dodgers’ wild 11-6, 12-inning victory on Friday night.
1. Cronenworth to Price to Musgrove
Quite a spot to make your big league debut on the mound. But the Padres needed Cronenworth in the 12th inning, having used every pitcher in their bullpen but right-hander Craig Stammen, who threw three innings on Thursday.
When left-hander Tim Hill ran out of gas in the 12th, San Diego manager Jayce Tingler emerged from the dugout and Musgrove — the no-hit hero from a week ago — went to left field. Tingler motioned for left fielder Jurickson Profar to slide to second base, and he summoned his second baseman to the mound.
“We were out of players,” Tingler said. “We were going to let Croney probably go around 15 pitches, and if we needed, [Eric Hosmer] was probably going to be the next guy. We just ran out of players.”
To be clear: Cronenworth is not your average position player pitching. He pitched in college at the University of Michigan and was used as an opener in the Rays’ system at the Triple-A level as recently as 2019. After the Padres acquired him, they toyed with using Cronenworth as a two-way threat. He threw regular bullpen sessions in Spring Training in ’20, before the team abandoned that plan when he proved he was plenty valuable offensively and defensively.
Cronenworth entered with the bases loaded and the Padres trailing, 9-6. He allowed an infield RBI single to Luke Raley when he forgot to cover first base — perhaps forgivable. Then, Price lifted a sacrifice fly to left, where Musgrove tracked it down, ranging to his left. To cap his night, Cronenworth’s first career strikeout came against Mookie Betts.
“Obviously, I didn’t expect it,” Cronenworth said. “I guess I really didn’t want to be in that situation, just because I wish we would’ve won the game a little earlier. But it was fun. I really enjoyed it.”
2. Benches clear
It was going to happen at some point between these two National League West heavyweights. Might as well happen in Game 1.
With the tying run on third base in the 10th, Dodgers reliever Dennis Santana plunked pinch-hitter Jorge Mateo on the hip — the third time Mateo has been hit in four days.
Mateo took exception. He and Santana exchanged words, prompting the benches and bullpens to empty, though cooler heads prevailed fairly quickly. Santana escaped the inning by striking out Victor Caratini and Fernando Tatis Jr.
3. Seager’s go-ahead blast
With both teams desperately looking for a big hit in extras, Corey Seager stepped up to the plate and ambushed the first offering he saw from Hill, crushing it for a two-run homer to give the Dodgers an 8-6 lead.
While Seager’s homer was a big moment in the game, it also marked a quirky situation that has been created with the new extra-innings rule of having a runner begin at second base. Seager’s homer was the first leadoff two-run homer in the Majors this season and only the sixth ever. Dodgers infielder Edwin Ríos was the first player to accomplish the unusual feat on July 29, 2020, against the Astros.
4. Tatis’ eventful day
Tatis returned from the injured list and, as usual, found himself at the center of everything. The Padres’ star shortstop crushed a home run to straightaway center field in the fifth. He made a pair of errors to bring his astonishing season total to seven. Then, with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th, he was left frozen on a slider from Santana.
Tatis finished 1-for-6, and his early season defensive showing is clearly cause for concern. But the most important takeaway from his extraordinarily eventful night is unquestionably this: That balky left shoulder got a major test on Day 1 — a ferocious swing on a 410-foot home run, then an all-out diving stop across his body in the sixth. So far, so good.
5. Machado’s gutsy rally
In the eighth, the Padres stormed back, tying the game on Jurickson Profar’s two-run double. Down one in the ninth — and down to their final strike with two outs — they mounted another comeback, this one courtesy of a gutsy display by Manny Machado.
Machado worked a two-out walk, before he got a visit from Tingler and a team trainer to check on his ailing back. Machado stayed in the game, then swiped second, aggravating his shoulder in the process. In visible discomfort, he took third on a wild pitch, then scored on Eric Hosmer’s game-tying single.
“Went to check on him several times,” Tingler said. “He wasn’t going to come out of this game.”
6. The Price is right
Price recorded his first career regular-season save on Thursday against the Rockies. The left-hander was supposed to not pitch on Friday, but as the game entered extras, he was told to stay ready just in case he was needed.
In the 11th, he was needed.
Price made his first back-to-back appearance of his career, and he shined, tossing two scoreless innings and getting crucial outs in the 11th against Hosmer and Wil Myers. But perhaps most impressively was the fact that he stepped up to the plate in the 12th and hit a sacrifice fly to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 11-6.
“My hitting streak is still intact, because I was 0-for-0,” Price said. “I’m still 2-for-my-last-3 in the regular season, and it’s 3-for-my-last-4 if you include Spring Training.”
Technically, you can’t extend a hitting streak on a sacrifice fly. But after what Price has done the past two nights, we’ll let him think that’s true. The last Dodgers pitcher to get an RBI and a win in extras was Chan Ho Park on June 19, 1996.
7. Weathering the storm
The starting pitchers in this series: Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and … Ryan Weathers? Hey, the 21-year-old rookie making his first big league start fit right in.
Weathers, the Padres’ No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit, then sat back and watched as the wackiest game of the season unfolded following his departure.