LOS ANGELES — As the Dodgers have started to square away their 2023 postseason plans this week, they were rocked by visions of October 2022.
The latest evidence of the Dodgers’ bumpy September came Wednesday night when they were held to one hit over six dominant innings by San Diego Padres ace Blake Snell and fell, 6-1, in the deciding game of a three-game series.
Kolten Wong allowed the Dodgers to avoid the shutout with a leadoff home run in the ninth inning.
The Padres won two of the three games in their visit to Dodger Stadium after winning just twice in the first 10 meetings this season between the teams. It was not a series the Dodgers expected to lose, making the comparison to last October inevitable, even if the stakes were far lower.
The Padres knocked the Dodgers out of the National League Division Series last season by winning three of the first four games of a best-of-five series.
The postseason is fading from the Padres’ grasp this season, but they looked the part of a contender this week with an offensive eruption to pull off an 11-8 victory on Monday then watching Snell (14-9, MLB-best 2.43 ERA) bolster his NL Cy Young Award case with his gem Wednesday.
“He’s always had success against us,” said the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, who went 0 for 2 against Snell and 0 for 4 in the game with two strikeouts. “I thought tonight was the best he’s looked since we’ve faced him.”
Even considering the 2020 World Series when Snell was dominating in Game 6 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays before he was removed?
“That was a long time ago,” Taylor said. “I mean, recently, at least this year, I thought that was the best he’s looked as far as throwing four pitches, locating. He was tough tonight.”
The Dodgers are now just 5-7 this month after going 24-5 in August.
Their magic number to clinch a 10th NL West title in 11 seasons is at four, with a champagne party a possibility this weekend during a three-game series that begins Friday in Seattle.
“I think that once we put our (October) roster together, we’ll do a good job of preventing runs,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “What roles guys are going to play, I don’t know yet. It’s not going to be conventional. It doesn’t need to be.”
Soto hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning to win Monday’s game, and his first-inning homer Wednesday put San Diego ahead, 1-0.
Dodgers right-hander Ryan Pepiot took a perfect game into the seventh inning last week in Miami, but his no-hitter and shutout were gone three batters into his most recent appearance.
The Padres made it 4-0 in the third inning when Fernando Tatis Jr. doubled, Soto singled and Luis Campusano hit a three-run home run to left.
San Diego’s lead grew to 6-0 in the seventh inning on a bases-loaded, broken-bat two-run single by Tatis, with both runs charged to right-hander Joe Kelly, who walked the first two batters he faced while making his return from a bout with forearm inflammation.
“I think that every September we have played good baseball except one,” Roberts said in reference to a 12-17 record in September of 2017. “I think it’s just focusing on playing good baseball. Try not to get too far ahead of things. And once we get to a certain point, dial it in.”
Pepiot gave up four runs on six hits over six innings without walking a batter. He had five strikeouts on 90 pitches. Over his first four major league appearances this season, he gave up two runs in 21 innings.
“Just a couple of pitches I want back,” Pepiot said. “I felt like I attacked the (strike) zone the entire time. I fell behind a couple of guys who got singles, but obviously two 0-2 homers can’t happen. The Soto one, I tried to get up and in and missed out over the middle. And Campusano put a good swing on a pitch that wasn’t (out of the strike zone) enough.”
The Padres won without Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts, who both got the night off. Machado homered twice in Monday’s game.
Wong’s home run was his second since joining the Dodgers on Aug. 9 and his fourth in 75 total games this season.
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