The second time around, Clevinger survived a tenuous inning, again limiting the Dodgers to one run despite a two-on-one jam in the third.
By the time the Dodgers’ order backfired for the third time, the Padres had given Clevinger a one-point lead.
And although two more men reached base in the fifth, the shrewd right-hander was one strike away from coming out of the inning unscathed.
Instead — at a time that showed why the Dodgers could be tough for anyone, including the Padres, to knock out in October — Clevinger was punished for one final mistake.
He threw a cursor at Max Muncy who stayed in the middle.
The Dodgers third baseman threw it into the Padres’ right field bullpen.
The three-run homer propelled the Dodgers to a 8-3 victoryearning their third straight win over the Padres this year and giving them a chance to sweep their division rivals Sunday night on national television.
“Tonight was a clinic”, director david roberts said. “A team offensive clinic.”
And he came into a game with the same tense tension reminiscent of postseason fall nights.
Dodgers starter Andrew Heane failed a first double in the first, pitched three scoreless innings to help the Dodgers take a 2-0 lead, but then gave up three unearned runs on an error by Gavin Lux in the fourth.
Working with limited pitching again after two shoulder injuries earlier this season, Heaney was retired with two outs in the fifth, handing the ball to reliever Chris Martin as Padres three-hole hitter Manny Machado came to home plate for the third time.
Martin retired Machado to end the inning, blocking a legacy runner to lower Heaney’s season ERA to 0.64.
“Hopefully we can kind of keep it there or extend it a bit more. [moving forward]Roberts said of Heaney, whose ERA is now 0.64 in seven starts this season. “But every time he comes out he gives us a chance to win the football game.”
In the next half-inning, Clevinger was given a longer leash by Padres manager Bob Melvin.
He turned around dramatically.
Mookie Betts led the inning with a single, one of his three hits of the night. With two outs, Smith was dunked with a change, putting two on board as Muncy came to the plate.
Coming on Saturday, Muncy had shown faint signs of life at home plate after a disastrous first half of the season. He had collected a hit in eight of his previous 10 games. He had also returned to making hard contact after battling a lingering elbow injury and inconsistent swing earlier in the season.
In his third meeting with Clevinger, Muncy took a first pitch, disagreed with a called first strike, then fanned a sinker to fall behind 1 and 2.
He had to get out of the way of the next pitch, a two-seam savage buzzing near his head.
But when he dug in, Clevinger came up with something far more enticing: a flat slider that stayed in the middle of the plate.
Muncy hit him with the explosive swing that has helped him hit 35 or more home runs three times over the past four seasons.
And as the ball sailed over the right field fence, he poked a finger in the air around first base.
“It’s definitely a little relief,” said Muncy, who is batting .170 with a .642 OPS. “It’s a really tough game, not to focus on results. But when you’re at a place where I am, you kind of need to see some results here or there.
The Dodgers (74-33) got away from there, getting a scoreless performance from the bullpen and three insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings, including a third RBI by Smith on a sacrifice fly.
“It was exactly how you script it,” Roberts said. “We just sort of waited for them to come out.”
The Dodgers have now won seven straight games, extending their division lead to 14½ games.
And they followed a dominating performance in Friday’s series opener with a different variety on Saturday – executing the kind of clinical mid-game rally that comes at the end of this season will make them hard for anyone to beat. .
“It kind of feels like our lineup got forgotten with a lot of things happening,” Muncy said. “It was pretty nice to go out there and prove again that we’re one of the best teams in baseball, and there’s no doubt about that.”
Clayton Kershaw Update
Roberts said Clayton Kershaw (back pain) received an epidural injection after being on the disabled list on Friday. There’s no timeline for Kershaw to pick up a baseball, but Roberts reiterated the team believes his absence “is going to be shorter than longer term.”
As for the less-than-ideal timing of Kershaw’s injury, which came two days after the Dodgers’ quiet trade deadline?
“It’s baseball,” Roberts said. “I think if we knew Clayton was going to fall, maybe we would have done something different. I don’t know… But you still can’t prepare for what might or might not happen.
Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol faced batters on Saturday. Roberts said Graterol could be back in action within 10 days, while Treinen remains on track for an early September return.
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