Dodgers rout Padres in opener of NL West battle

LOS ANGELES — Over the past few days, the Padres have been the talk of the baseball world. San Diego acquired superstar Juan Soto from the Nationals, along with All-Star Josh Bell. They also made separate deals for All-Star closer Josh Hader and infielder Brandon Drury.

On paper, the Padres are a much-improved team. Those acquisitions created a buzz around this weekend’s three-game series in Los Angeles. But on Friday night, the Dodgers reminded everyone that the NL West still runs through them, delivering a statement to the Padres with an 8-1 win at Dodger Stadium.

Since the beginning of July, the Dodgers have won 26 of 31 games. They are now a Majors-best 40 games over .500 with a 73-33 record. The Dodgers are 6-2 against the second-place Padres and have built a 13.5-game lead in the division standings.

“You can write as many articles as you want, but I think our view of it might be different — not in a good or bad way,” said Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner. “I think they got a lot better adding some depth to their lineup. It seems like a lot of guys can hurt you [Bell], Soto and Drury over there. They definitely got better, but we took care of business tonight.”

After going through an emotional pregame ceremony to honor the life of legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, the Dodgers wasted no time reminding the Padres why they lead most offensive categories this season.

Mookie Betts, Turner and Freddie Freeman immediately combined to load the bases against Padres left-hander Sean Manaea. Will Smith, who went 3-for-4 on Friday, drove in Betts with an infield single. Turner came around to score on the play following a throwing error by Drury.

Two batters later, Hanser Alberto hit a double down the left-field line to plate two more runs. Just like that, the Dodgers were up 4-0 in the first inning.

“We just took advantage of the first inning and got downhill,” Turner said. “Put pressure on them and continued that throughout the game. I feel like everybody contributed one through nine. It was a good offensive day for us.”

The Dodgers weren’t done showing off. In the third, the Dodgers put up another crooked number on the scoreboard. Chris Taylor, who was making his first appearance since July 4, hit a two-run double off Manaea to push the lead to 6-0. Cody Bellinger, one of the two lefties in the lineup, joined the hit parade, delivering a two-run double of his own to cap off the Dodgers’ second four-run inning of the night.

The Dodgers’ offense combined for 12 hits on Friday. Seven of the nine starters recorded at least one hit. The top four in the lineup combined to go 8-for-15 with six runs scored.

It took some time, but the Dodgers’ offense is looking like the juggernaut most expected at the beginning of the season. LA leads the National League with 559 runs and has scored five or more runs in five of the last six games.

“The messaging has been consistent on my part, our part, just focusing on ourselves and playing good baseball,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

The offensive explosion was more than enough for All-Star pitcher Tony Gonsolin, who improved to 13-1 this season with five scoreless innings. Gonsolin struggled with his command early, needing 30 pitches to get through the first inning. But the right-hander was able to settle in, keeping the Padres off the scoreboard.

These two teams will play 11 more times in the regular season. With the talent on both sides, blowouts like these aren’t expected often. But for one night, the Dodgers sent a pretty clear message.

“Today doesn’t have an effect on tomorrow, so they can come out and kick our butts tomorrow,” Turner said. “I think you just take it one step at a time, one game at a time – I know it’s boring – but I think that’s what we’ve done all year, and I think that’s why we’re in the position we’re in. in.”

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