SAN DIEGO — There were no theatrics.
No showmanship with the umpiring crew.
No antics with San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer, performing for the first time with the foreign substance police keeping close tabs on him, pitched Wednesday night without any commotion.
He pitched well with 10 strikeouts in six innings. But he was hardly dominant, giving up three home runs — including another to nemesis Manny Machado — in the 5-3 loss, a Padres sweep of the Dodgers for the first time since April 15-17, 2013.
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It was the seventh time in eight games the Padres have beaten the Dodgers in baseball’s new rivalry, leaving the Dodgers four games out of first place in the NL West behind the San Francisco Giants. It’s their largest deficit since Aug. 22, 2018. Yet they still have the second-best record in the National League, one-half game ahead of the Padres.
“They absolutely kicked our ass from an intensity standpoint," Bauer said. “They came to play. And we didn’t. That’s what happens in baseball. You come out, try to attack the other team and win. And when you don’t have that mindset, you get rolled.
“And we got rolled."
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (left) looks on from the mound after a home run by San Diego Padres catcher Victor Caratini (right) during the seventh inning at Petco Park. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports)
Bauer gave up five hits, but with three leaving the yard, he has now given up six homers in 18 innings in his three starts against the Padres this year.
“I don’t know; I just have the worst home-run luck in the league," Bauer said. “It seems like every time I make even the smallest little mistake, it leaves the yard. So I don’t know what to do about that. …Every little mistake leaves the yard. You just hope it doesn’t last the season."
If there was any consolation, he was able to shut down Tatis, striking him out twice, two months after accusing Tatis of peeking at signs in their last outing.
“If you need to know what pitch is coming that badly, just ask daddy nicely next time," Bauer tweeted in April. “You know I ain’t scared homie."
Tatis responded with a phone holding a small kid and photoshopped Bauer’s face, tweeting it back at Bauer with the words, “Tranquilo hijo."
Translation: "Calm down, son.’’
“People that play baseball understand what that was,’’ Bauer told San Diego radio station XTRA 1360 this week. “It’s part of the game. It’s not illegal, but it’s just kind of frowned upon when stuff like that happens. I’m not going to go hit him for it or anything, just letting him know that people see him doing it. …
“If you want to celebrate and all that stuff, that’s fine, but we see what you’re doing, and we’ll have something for you.’’
Bauer strutted off the mound in the fifth and sixth innings, waving his hands to the Dodgers’ fans. But after he gave up a go-ahead homer to catcher Victor Caratini in the seventh inning and departed following a walk, he was heavily booed by the sellout crowd at Petco Park.
Bauer, who was the first pitcher to publicly accuse the Houston Astros and other pitchers of using illegal foreign substances in 2018, had a lower spin rate on all of his pitches. He was down 196 rpm from his season average on his sinker and 194 rpm on his four-seam fastball.
But when it came time to talk about MLB’s crackdown on illegal foreign substances, Bauer wasn’t biting.
Asked how he felt it went with the umpiring crew checking him for substances, he responded: “How do you think it went?"
He was asked about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments that position players, along with some pitchers, actually have had a favorable response to the crackdown, saying it will continue until MLB rids itself of foreign substances.
“I don’t know," he said. “I’m here to win baseball games. I’m focusing on pitching and trying to win a baseball game. I don’t have anything to hide. I just go pitch. I don’t know what the media is writing. I don’t pay attention to you guys really that often, so I don’t have an opinion there.’’
Really, the only message Bauer wanted to send is that the Dodgers better wake up because the Giants and the Padres are pretty darn good.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult division," Bauer said. “I don’t think anyone’s surprised. The Padres are good. I don’t think anyone’s surprised the Giants are good. So, when you don’t play good baseball, and play a good team, you get beat.
“And that’s what happened."
In the meantime, the Padres’ confidence is growing, particularly with baseball’s crackdown on foreign substances. They believe they may have less to worry about than anyone else in the division. They love the fact there’s a level playing field, and couldn’t care less how umpires check on potential illegal activity, as long as everyone’s finally is clean.
“The only thing I really don’t like is it makes every pitcher that comes onto the mound kind of look like a guilty culprit until proven innocent," Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen said. "We all look like a bunch of cheaters in the public’s eyes.’’
The sentiment was echoed New York Yankees veteran reliever Zack Britton Wednesday with New York reporters, believing that baseball should have compliance officers who conduct inspections in clubhouses, dugouts and bullpens instead of during games.
“I just think the optics are just absolutely embarrassing for our game, and that's not what I want to wake up and read about regarding our game in the morning, ’’Britton said. “If I’m a young kid at the game and I’m asking my dad, “Well, hey, what’s going on? Why are they getting checked?’ What’s he going to say? 'Well, I think everyone’s cheating.’
“I mean, this that what we want the game to be about, like we’re assuming you’re cheating? I just think it’s a bad look.’’
Then again, it’s not a good look either when pitchers are dropping their pants, showing up umpires, with Oakland Athletics closer Sergio Romo unzipping his pants Tuesday night and pulling them halfway down when checked by the umpiring crew.
“You know, he’s a playful guy," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “I don’t think he meant anything by it. I will credit the umpires with the way they’ve handled this, they’ve been fantastic in it. Try to make light of it, smile with guys and do it quickly. So, that won’t happen again.’’
Who knows, maybe with the crackdown, the blatant cheating will finally dissipate, with hitters furious how prevalent illegal substances were used by ptichers throughout the game. Baseball is on pace for 5,000 more strikeouts than hits this year after never having more strikeouts than hits in a single season before 2018.
“We were so stupid as hitters saying, “'Oh yeah, it’s for control,’" Cubs All-Star Kris Bryant said. “We just don’t want them to hit us.’
“That was such a cop-out. I love that things are kind of going the other way."
Look around the league. Spin rates are down. Batting averages are up. And no one is getting hit by pitches any more than they were before the crackdown.
The game is starting to regain some of its purity, and for the Padres, they’ve got nothing to hide, believing that with a level playing field there’s no reason they can’t be the last team standing and winning their first World Series in franchise history.
“Hey, we believe, this could be an awfully special year," ’Padres pitcher Blake Snell said.
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