Mookie Betts and James Outman homer late in comeback against Padres

SAN DIEGO — Everything was starting to look a lot like last October for the Dodgers.

The defense was dropping a pitching staff that was throwing a lot of zeros against one of baseball’s best formations. The Dodgers’ offense left runners on base at an alarming clip. The Padres, on the other hand, were playing as the more confident team.

But everything changed with a swing from a superstar.

With Los Angeles in its final outing, Mookie Betts rose to the occasion, hitting an tying homer off Josh Hader, closer to the Padres All-Star. In the 10th, rookies Michael Busch and James Outman helped the Dodgers secure the first series between the two division rivals with a 5-2 victory Sunday at Petco Park.

“He’s the best player on the field,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Betts. “He always has to believe that, and the great thing about this game is that the players win the game. Today (Betts) had an opportunity and he hung on to us.

After a hot start to May, Betts had a tough weekend at home plate. But his ability to change a game with a single bat makes him one of baseball’s best players. And when his team needed him the most, Betts was able to activate a 3-1 Hader fastball and send him into the seats.

It served as a punch to the sold-out crowd at Petco Park and set the stage for the young Dodgers players to get to work in the 10th. That’s when Busch, who hadn’t batted since Tuesday, delivered a two-out RBI single against Brent Honeywell. Outman followed with a homer to extend the lead to three runs.

“There’s nothing like it,” Busch said of a hit in the Majors. “It’s very nice to help this team win, especially in a place like this. It’s a tough place to win and to get two out of three here I think is pretty important for the team.

Although it was the offense that came late, this rally was made possible by the excellent throwing performance of Julio Urías and the Dodgers bullpen. In the first inning, Urías wasn’t helped by his defense, as Betts and Outman both made mistakes in the outfield. But that didn’t stop the Mexican southpaw from settling into the game and keeping the Dodgers within striking distance.

Urías pushed through some traffic, ultimately allowing only two first-inning runs and striking out three of 5 2/3 frames.

“They know me, I know them. It’s a match that is won by the team that has the best game plan,” Urías said in Spanish. “This rivalry between us has been important. They have a great team, we have a great team. »

Heading into the weekend series, the Dodgers maintained their position that this was just another matchup against a divisional opponent. They weren’t aiming to avenge last October’s playoff loss or prove anything after the Padres’ busy offseason.

The Dodgers said the same after Sunday’s win. But one thing they learned over the weekend was that things were getting more and more heated in this new Southern California rivalry. Petco Park’s scoreboard operator mocked Clayton Kershaw with a meme of him crying after Friday’s game, and a fan held up a sign during Saturday’s game aimed at Betts, who the right fielder quickly took down mentioned in a post-match interview.

“100%,” Betts said, when asked if this series had any more notable off-court moments than in the past. “These are just tactics to try to get under our skin, to make us act out of character. … We determine the matches.

Instead, those “antics,” as Betts called them, might have helped the Dodgers match the level of intensity with which the Padres have played against Los Angeles since last year’s NLDS. When Kershaw was asked about the meme, the future Hall of Famer took the high road and argued that these things wouldn’t happen if the Dodgers won.

They won’t say it publicly, but some of their actions suggest a return to Petco Park, where their season ended six months ago, might just be what they needed.

As Urías says, “He who laughs last will laugh the best.”

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