Smith, Thompson homers power MLB-leading Dodgers past Padres

Will Smith homered for the second successive game and Trayce Thompson added a pinch-hit home run as the Los Angeles Dodgers used two big innings to defeat the San Diego Padres 9-4 on Sunday night.

The Dodgers, who have the best record in the MLB at 92-41, extended their lead over the Padres in the NL West to 19 matches with 29 games left. The Dodgers’ magic number to claim the division is nine.

“You definitely want to win the division and it gives you a little bit easier road to the postseason,” Smith said. “Once you get to the postseason, it doesn’t matter. We really just go one game at a time, try not to look too far ahead, and tomorrow we’ll be right back at it.”

Thompson hit the second pinch-hit homer of his career, a three-run shot in the seventh inning. His first pinch-hit blast came in his first stint with the Dodgers in 2016, versus the New York Mets. Thompson, who started the year with the Padres organization and had just 14 at-bats before being designated for assignment, homered off reliever Adrian Morejon in a four-run seventh inning.

“Depth is huge, especially going into these playoff series and whatnot, playing a long season,” said Mookie Betts, who had two hits. “He’s been huge. Playing great defense. Timely hitting. He’s been hitting all year. It’s not luck. He’s a really good player.”

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Smith hit his 21st homer of the season, a solo shot off starter Mike Clevinger (5-6), tying the game at 1 in the fourth inning.

The Dodgers broke open the game with a five-run fourth before the Padres pulled within a run with a three-run seventh inning.

“That was huge,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “We really thought we had a chance to come back and win this game. … We gave up four the next inning.”

Clevinger lasted 3 1/3 innings and allowed five earned runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

“The game was probably closer than the outcome looked,” Melvin said. ”But, you know what, they are the best team in the league right now and we just have to beat these guys if we’re gonna go where we want to go.”

Smith started things in the fourth with a solo home run. Clevinger struck out Max Muncy and then Justin Turner drew a walk, Joey Gallo singled, and Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Cody Bellinger then drew a walk to drive in a run and Mookie Betts hit a sacrifice fly to score another. Trea Turner doubled, plating two more runs.

In the seventh inning, the Padres made things interesting. Jurickson Profar hit a two-run double to right off Evan Phillips to pull the Padres within 5-3. Jake Cronenwroth doubled in another run to make it 5-4.

Bellinger, who has struggled at the plate all season and has dropped to last in the batting order, drew three walks.

The Padres scored one run in the third inning. Austin Nola drew a one-out walk and Ha-Seong Kim struck out. Juan Soto walked and Manny Machado singled to deep short. Machado, who dove head-first into first base, arrived safely but Freddie Freeman couldn’t pick Trea Turner’s errant throw and Nola scored on the error.

Caleb Ferguson opened for the Dodgers and struck out the side, all on called strikeouts. Ryan Pepiot, just recalled with a plan of picking up most of the innings Sunday, came into the game in the second but struggled with control and walked four in two innings. In the third, he walked Jurickson Profar and Matt Beaty before the Dodgers went to the bullpen. Alex Vesia retired the next three batters to get the Dodgers out of the jam. Los Angeles had to go deep into the bullpen with eight pitchers.

Vesia (4-0) earned the win.

“I didn’t realize (the magic number) was nine. It was a good series,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It was good to see us play well and win a series. Still a lot of baseball, but just encouraged. It wasn’t a clean game, but the way we responded after they put runs on the board was good to see.”

Melvin stated the Padres’ focus is getting into the postseason.

“With as many wild-card teams as you have right now, the focus is just getting in,” he said. “Every game is important, no matter where u play it.”

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