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Ex-Ray Blake Snell finds some peace facing Dodgers

A start for the Padres helps him put aside the bad memory of pitching against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series last season.
Padres starter Blake Snell works against the Dodgers, getting a no-decision as San Diego wins the finale to avoid a sweep in the tense three-game series.
Padres starter Blake Snell works against the Dodgers, getting a no-decision as San Diego wins the finale to avoid a sweep in the tense three-game series. [ GREGORY BULL | AP ]
Published Apr. 19
Updated Apr. 19

SAN DIEGO — Round 1 is in the books, and the heavyweight Padres and Dodgers didn’t disappoint. Blake Snell, who started and got a no-decision in San Diego’s 5-2 victory Sunday, was pleased too. He said he was relieved to face Los Angeles for the first time since Rays manager Kevin Cash infamously pulled him while dominating the Dodgers in Game 6 of last season’s World Series, which Tampa Bay went on to lose.

“I think it was no secret that the whole baseball world was locked into this series,” San Diego slugger Eric Hosmer said. “Everybody enjoyed the matchup.”

Hosmer delivered the tying and go-ahead RBIs in the seventh and eighth innings Sunday, helping the Padres avoid a sweep in the first series of the year between the NL West rivals. The Dodgers won the opener Friday in 12 innings and took Saturday’s matchup 2-0 thanks to a game-ending, diving grab by centerfielder Mookie Betts.

“It is a good preview for many more games to come. Both teams are playing with a ton of energy” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We were hoping to win the series, ultimately.”

In Sunday’s finale, Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer handed off a 2-1 lead to the’ bullpen after six innings in a tight duel with another Cy Young Award winner, Snell, who won it in 2018 with the Rays.

Hosmer doubled in the tying run in the seventh off Brusdar Graterol, then delivered the decisive blow in the eighth. San Diego scored three unearned runs in the inning stemming from shortstop Corey Seager’s throwing error. Hosmer’s sharp single made it 3-2, and former Ray Tommy Pham followed with a two-run double into the leftfield corner.

San Diego had lost seven straight in the rivalry, including a three-game sweep in last year’s NL Division Series. The Padres and Dodgers will meet 16 more times this season, starting with a set next weekend in Los Angeles.

“We have always felt that we have been in all of these games and we are right there so it was nice today to get over that hump and be on the right side of this one,” Hosmer said.

In four previous career starts versus the Padres, Bauer was 0-4 with a 5.06 ERA. Bauer, the 2020 NL Cy Young winner with Cincinnati, was effective his entire outing, pounding his chest twice after striking out Fernando Tatis on a 3-2 fastball to end the sixth and finish his day. Bauer gave up one earned run and three hits while striking out seven.

Snell lasted five innings and was lifted for a pinch-hitter after 95 pitches, giving up two earned runs and two hits while striking out seven.

“I’m happy to get this start out of the way so I don’t have to watch Game 6 37,000 times a day — I am kind of over that,” Snell said. “I’m happy that the boys were able to come back and get a win.”

Keone Kela (2-0) earned the win in relief for the Padres and Mark Melancon notched his sixth save. Reliever Scott Alexander (0-1) took the loss for the Dodgers.

Graterol, activated on Sunday from the 10-day injured list, faced the Padres in the seventh and gave up a single, double and walk in five batters in two-thirds of an inning. Hosmer’s opposite-field double off the left-field foul line scored Manny Machado.

In the second inning, Will Smith singled and Chris Taylor smashed an estimated 443-foot, two-run homer to left-center on a 95 mph fastball from Snell to give the Dodgers a 2-0 edge.

“The home run to Taylor was a good pitch, he just ambushed the fastball,” Snell said. “I just need to get my pitches in the zone a lot better.”

The Padres trailed only 2-1 after Jake Cronenworth hit a curveball from Bauer for a solo homer in the fourth.

Graterol pitched for the first time since his celebration on the mound in last year’s NL Division Series after teammate Cody Bellinger’s catch robbing Tatis of a home run in Game 2. Graterol’s antics angered the Padres and led to a heated confrontation between the teams.

— By RICHARD J. MARCUS

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