Chris Taylor flexes muscles, Dustin May smiles as the Dodgers defeat Padres

Dodgers' Chris Taylor (3) is greeted by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a two-run home run
The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor is greeted by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Padres Saturday night in San Diego. The Dodgers won 2-1. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

At every mention of their rivalry with the Padres over the past week, or every hint of revenge after last year’s playoff elimination, the Dodgers preached nothing but calm and control.

Emotions were downplayed.

Impact minimized.

Keep track of the importance of a single series in preseason.

“If you’re going to let the outside noise control you, sure,” said outfielder Mookie Betts when asked if the intensity was any different on this trip, the Dodgers’ first trip to San Diego since they were picked up by the Padres in the National League Division Series were eliminated last year.

“But,” Betts added, “it’s still the same game we always play.”

That attitude was evident Saturday night as the Dodgers coolly navigated to a 2-1 win over the Padres that calmed a sell-out crowd at Petco Park and evened out a three-game streak against their Southern California foes.

The Dodgers (20-14) managed just three hits but got a big one when they needed it – opening the scoring with a two-run blast from Chris Taylor at the top of the fourth.

The team’s pitching squad, meanwhile, extended the lead by combining Dustin May’s scoreless six-inning start with a couple of high-wire breakouts at the bullpen to seal Sunday’s televised national final against the Padres (18-16) into a weekend transform fit.

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May reacts after the last out of the sixth inning on Saturday in San Diego.

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May reacts after the last out of the sixth inning on Saturday in San Diego. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

“There was a lot of consistency,” said bench coach Danny Lehmann, who served as assistant manager Saturday while Dave Roberts was away for his son’s college graduation.

“I think that’s one of our strengths, sort of persevering this season and not going too high or too low, but having high expectations of ourselves.”

Before the game, it was Clayton Kershaw who took over the final round for the Dodgers to calm the emotions of this series.

After the Padres’ opening win on Friday, which saw Kershaw concede defeat, the Petco Park scoreboard showed a meme of the future Hall of Famer with a series of superimposed tears streaming down his face.

Video of the meme was shared widely on social media on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, drawing the online wrath of the Dodgers’ fan base.

But when asked about the prank ahead of Saturday’s first pitch, Kershaw defused the controversy and declined to “take the bait” in a situation he seemed little interested in.

“Someone showed me this morning,” he said. “If you don’t like it, better hit. I don’t think they will if we win.”

In fact, the scoreboard on Saturday showed little reason for the home crowd to cheer.

Early on, May and Padres left-hander Blake Snell traded zeros in a duel of pitchers, each capitalizing on a wide hitting zone from home plate umpire Edwin Jimenez to whizze through the order with his first turn.

However, as May continued to cross in the fourth, Snell eventually blinked.

After giving up 11 straight early in the game, Snell gave Will Smith a two-out walk. Two pitches later, he hung a center cut switch on Taylor.

The result: a double explosion that sailed into the second seating deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field.

“Just one miss,” said Taylor, whose sixth home run of the season continued his recent ascent at the Platte. “I was just trying to get something up because his overall offspeed in the zone is good. So yeah, it was just a bit over the top.”

That was all May needed to wrap up his goalless six-striker outing while lowering his earned run average to 2.68 and improving to 4-1 on the season.

“He was just serving, fighting, going for guys,” said Catcher Smith.

“Gave us six good innings.”

The Dodgers’ bullpen – which has improved greatly in recent weeks after Caleb Ferguson, Brusdar Graterol and Evan Phillips lined up as their highest-leverage weapons – completed the win with contributions from all three.

Ferguson stranded with a one-out walk for the seventh time, on his 10th straight without giving up a run.

Graterol limited damage in the eighth inning, giving up just one run, although Brett Sullivan and Fernando Tatis Jr.

That paved the way for Phillips to finish ninth — an opportunity he never had in Game 4 last year when the Dodgers squandered a late lead in their elimination loss.

This time the right-hander took advantage, ending a win where the Dodgers were still struggling to manufacture much on the plate, again unsuccessfully going into goal position with runners but this time still managing to push through and calmly collect their first Defeat of the Padres to maintain first place in division standings.

“I think we know these two teams are likely to be in the postseason race and each of us is gearing up to win the World Series,” Phillips said. “But we try not to put too much emphasis on the external factors.”

Short jumps

Roberts attended son Cole’s graduation from Loyola Marymount. … Max Muncy was back in the lineup as the designated batsman on Saturday after leaving Friday’s game early with “flu-like symptoms”. Muncy, who leads the majors with 12 homers, was 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.


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