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Mookie Betts, Dodgers Show They're Still Best In The West



LOS ANGELES—The Padres may be on the rise, but the National League West still belongs to the Dodgers.

Mookie Betts hit three home runs in a game for the sixth time in his career, tying an MLB record, and the Dodgers ripped the Padres, 11-2, Thursday night to earn a split of their four-game series.

The Padres won the first two games of the series to generate hope they had caught up to their rivals to the north, but the Dodgers outscored them 17-2 over the final two games to put those thoughts to rest.

“They’re a good team, they’re starting to put pieces together, but you don’t really worry about that,” Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said. “You kind of have to worry about yourself … You handle your own business and let the chips fall.”

The Dodgers are 44-20 against the Padres since the start of the 2015 season, including a 4-3 edge in the season series this year. They have won every season series against the Padres since 2010 and, moreover, have been the primary source of San Diego’s lowest moments in recent years.

It was Joc Pederson’s diving catch in 2015 that robbed the Padres of a critical series victory and led the organization to make the ill-fated decision to fire manager Bud Black, turning a team that was only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot into a 7-16 tailspin that dashed their playoff hopes.

The Padres retained hopes of contending in 2016, but the Dodgers smashed them 15-0 on Opening Day and outscored them 25-0 in the opening three-game series, crushing those dreams before they could begin.

And last year, after the Padres won three straight against the Dodgers going into the all-star break to provide hope they could compete at the level of the reigning National League champions, the Dodgers went 8-2 against them the rest of the season.

The gap is narrowing a bit. The Padres have won three of this year’s matchups and held a lead in two others, including Thursday. But the Dodgers have the edge in the season series so far, and once again are the team ahead in the standings.

“It’s no walk in the park to play those guys. They do a lot of things well,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t think we need to talk about (this still being our division). We know how talented we are and how we play the game.”

Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to get the Padres out front early, but it was all Dodgers after that.

A two-run homer by Seager and a solo shot by A.J. Pollock in the bottom of the first put the Dodgers on top 3-2, and then Betts took over. The marquee offseason acquisition hit a two-run homer off Chris Paddack in the second inning, a solo homer off Luis Perdomo in the fourth and, after an inning-ending double play was overturned on review, added a two-run shot off Perdomo in the fifth.

Betts joined Sammy Sosa and Johnny Mize as the only players in MLB history with six career three-home run games. The outburst coincided with Betts being placed back in the leadoff spot for the first time since Aug. 2, and only the sixth time this season.

“I think I’m just comfortable there,” Betts said. “I enjoy getting things started, creating havoc on the basepaths, trying to score one in the first. I definitely take pride in doing that. It’s just a comfort thing.”

Dodgers lefthander Julio Urias, fighting to keep his rotation spot, recovered from the back-to-back homers in the first inning to complete 6.1 innings with five hits and two runs allowed, no walks and three strikeouts. It was just the second time in 32 career starts the talented but injury-prone former top prospect completed more than six innings.

“I just loved the way he bowed his neck after that bottom half (of the first),” Roberts said. “We put ourselves back in that game and just the way he was on the attack and aggressive with all his pitches, I love that. To see him get into the seventh inning, that was something I was really hoping we could do tonight.”

On the other end, the Padres watched their Opening Day starter Paddack get lit up for six runs in three innings, including three home runs.

It was a stark reminder that for all the young talent the Padres have assembled, the road to the division goes through Chavez Ravine.

“It’s a good lineup over there,” Paddack said. “Great manager, two MVP candidates. Going into the game, I made things personal. We wanted to win this series.”

Mookie Betts Kevork Djanseziangetty

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