Dodgers silence the Juan Soto-Padres hype with a resounding series sweep
As in being body slammed as usual by the Dodgers.
As in posing another empty challenge in the National League West.
As in, once again, failing to live up to the hype.
By the end of it, however, the Dodgers had made their own resounding statement, silencing the Padres again in a thorough three-game sweep punctuated at Dodger Stadium by Sunday's 4-0 win.
"We just played all-around good baseball," manager Dave Roberts said. "It was a packed house, the fans were into it from pitch one. And we responded and put on a good performance these three games."
As they did after their victories on Friday and Saturday, the Dodgers downplayed the significance of this weekend's meeting, in which they extended their winning streak to eight and improved to 8-2 against the Padres this season.
It's still only August, after all. The Padres, who remain without star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., still aren't at full strength.
Only a month and a half ago, the teams were tied in the standings. And if the Padres are playing better by October, there's little doubt their new-look roster has the ability to be a real threat.
But for now — in the wake of a weekend walloping in which the Dodgers outscored the Padres 20-4, outhit them 33-12 and trailed after only one of 27 innings — the two franchises still feel worlds apart, separated by 151/2 games in the NL West.
"You always want to win divisional games," he said Freddie Freeman, who had two RBIs on Sunday. "And we took care of business this series."
Indeed, the Dodgers' superstars shined brighter this weekend. While Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freeman and Will Smith combined for 19 hits and seven RBIs, the Padres' primary quartet of Soto, Manny Machado, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury had only six hits and two RBIs.
The Dodgers' pitching staff looked deeper, getting better starts in all three games — including Tyler Anderson's seven scoreless innings in the finale — plus a combined 10-plus innings of one-run ball out of the bullpen.
The Dodgers' roster looked altogether more threatening as well.
The team continued to compensate for injuries on the mound (Yency Almonte became the latest injured list addition Sunday, although his right elbow soreness is not believed to be serious).
The Dodgers also received key contributions from the slumping bats of Cody Bellinger (who hit two solo home runs Sunday) and Max Muncy (who went three for eight during the weekend).
"It's just like we're on their neck the whole game," Roberts said. "When they make a mistake, we're ready to capitalize."
Was it the best series the Dodgers (75-33) have played this season?
"Given the circumstances," Roberts said, "I think it was up there."
Added Freeman: "I feel like we've been doing that kind of series for a couple months now, really."
The Padres (61-50), on the other hand, suffered one of their most disheartening displays.
While Soto did an in-game interview with ESPN's “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast during the third inning, Bellinger hit the first of his home runs to open the scoring.
"Stay here!" the Padres newest superstar called out in vain, as the ball sailed over the fence.
Later in the game, when Padres chairman Peter Seidler joined the telecast, even he acknowledged that for all the excitement around his franchise, the Dodgers remain "the dragon up the freeway that we're trying to slay."
Maybe in the future, the Padres will find a way. They added Soto to a lineup that already has Tatis and Machado locked up long term. They also extended their staff ace, Joe Musgrove, who did not pitch in this series, before the trade deadline.
Roberts, a former Padres player and coach who still lives in San Diego during the offseason, said he could sense this is "as much optimism as they've had in their organization's history."
Yet, the gap between them and the Dodgers only continued to grow, with Roberts' current team again swatting away their latest challenger in the NL West.
"I think it's something that we're used to it, as far as someone trying to unseat or take us down," Roberts said. "It's a good thing that people want to come after you. It brings out the best in you. So appreciating that anytime we have a letdown, that people are willing to pounce, it keeps our focus for an entire season."
And whether on purpose or not, the Dodgers' intensity seemed especially heightened this weekend — needing only three games to deliver a swift response to the Padres' deadline frenzy of moves and deals.
"The goal is to take three from them and then see how they react," Roberts said. "I'm just happy that we're playing good baseball."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.