MLB playoffs: San Diego Padres face favored LA Dodgers in NLDS – USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight title. 
The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl.  
The U.S. men’s hockey team stunned the Soviet Union in the Olympics. 
So, why can’t the San Diego Padres defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series beginning Tuesday night (9:37 p.m. ET, FS1) at Dodger Stadium? 
Come on, didn’t they just ruin the New York Mets’ season after they won 101 games? 
Don’t they have Manny Machado, Juan Soto and the newest version of Bucky Bleepin’ Dent in Trent Grisham? 
Doesn’t their starting rotation consist of top tier starters Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell and Mike Clevinger, with four-time All-Star Josh Hader as the closer? 
Should it really be considered that enormous of an upset if the Padres knock off the 111-win Dodgers and advance one step closer to their first World Series title in franchise history? 
Well, uh, yeah. 
You see, when it comes to beating the Dodgers, the Padres completely fall apart. 
The Padres may have a payroll now that competes with the powerful Dodgers, talent that almost matches, but when they play head to head, they have a meltdown. 
The Padres haven’t won a season series against the Dodgers since 2010. 
They played 19 games against one another this year, and the Padres lost 14 of them. 
The Padres averaged 2.5 runs a game against the Dodgers this year while they averaged 5.7 runs. They were out-homered, 31-12. Their starters had a 5.69 ERA compared to the Dodgers’ 2.18. Their bullpen surrendered a 5.38 ERA compared to the Dodgers’ 1.57. 
You can stretch this sheer domination back to the past 28 games, with the Padres going woeful 5-23 against the Dodgers. 
Why, going back the past 12 seasons, the Dodgers are a ridiculous 147-73 against the Padres. 
The Dodgers keep kicking Pacific beach sand in the Padres’ faces, and every time the Padres vow to retaliate, the Dodgers mock them, doing everything but build a sand castle on their chest. 
This is a Padres team that hasn’t been to the postseason in a full season since 2006. 
The Dodgers, during the same stretch, have reached the postseason 12 times since 2006, winning 11 NL West titles, three Nationals League pennants and a World Series championship. 
The Padres have finished a combined 316 games behind the Dodgers in the 16 years, including 166.5 games just the past six years. 
Every year is an old-fashioned beating from opening day until October, with the Padres driving a rusty Toyota Prius along the I-5 freeway while the rich neighbors up north are humming along in a Rolls Royce Shadow. 
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Now, for the first time since the first week of the season, the Padres and Dodgers are finally back even, starting at 0-0 in the best-of-five series. 
“I think it feels a little bit better now that we’re not looking at the standings,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said, “and 18 games behind, or 20 games, behind, whatever it was.”
Well, it was 22 games behind, but who’s counting? 
“They handled us pretty well during the year,” said Padres center fielder Trent Grisham, who hit .184 during the regular season, and .500 in the wild card series, “but now everything is on the line. There’s a winner who goes on. And the loser goes home. Everything is on the line.” 
The Dodgers, who will start Julio Urias in Game 1 instead of three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, insist they won’t look past the Padres. They’re not booking a flight to Atlanta or Philadelphia for the NLCS, hoping to seek revenge against the Braves. They have no plans to pack cases of champagne and beer with them when they head to San Diego for the weekend. 
“We’re going to have our hands full,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, “so there’s going to be no letdown on our part. The regular season has no bearing on the postseason. It’s the best-of-five. So, history, in our opinion, doesn’t really matter.” 
This is the first year of the new postseason format where the division winners with the two best records have a first-round bye, so it could be fascinating to see if the six-day layoff has any lingering effect with the Padres coming off an emotional high. 
The Padres, winning their first postseason series in a full year since 1998, didn’t arrive to their hotel until 6 a.m. Monday. They ran into traffic for 1½ hours leaving Citi Field, getting to the John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2 a.m. The flight, battling headwinds, took six hours. And by the time the buses got to the team hotel in Pasadena, California, the morning commuters were clogging the freeway. 
Still, despite the exhaustion, with only an optional workout scheduled at 4 p.m. local time, virtually the entire team took the field at Dodger Stadium, including several of their star players like MVP candidate Manny Machado. 
Aww, nothing like an adrenaline rush to keep the energy level at full speed. 
“It’s obviously a team that’s coming off a very big series, an emotional series,” Roberts said, “a very talented team. There’s going to be a lot of emotions. It’s going to be a very intense series.” 
It’s the most talented Padres team the Dodgers have encountered since Roberts left the Padres coaching staff to join the enemy up the freeway, becoming the first manager to lead his team to the postseason in his first seven years. 
The Dodgers (111-51) may have won 22 more games than the Padres (89-73) during the past six months, but none of it matters now, not with the next five games determining their fate. 
“No one cares that we won 111 games, or what the head-to-head matchups were during the season,” Dodgers All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman says. “It’s what you can do (Tuesday), the next day, and the next day. … 
“I don’t know that there’s a rhyme or reason for why we played so well, but it needs to continue.” 
If the Dodgers needed a wake-up call, they got it when they watched the Padres’ 6-0 shutout victory in Game 3 over the Mets, with the entire Dodgers team gathering at The Palm in Beverly Hills at a team dinner. 
“I don’t think anybody in this room picked the Padres to beat the Mets,” Freeman said. “We know they’ve got a lot of momentum coming off of that. They’re playing good baseball. They’ve been playing good baseball to get there.”
Freeman, of course, has first-hand experience with the havoc an underdog can create in the postseason. He was on that Atlanta team last season that was predicted to go out in the first round against the Milwaukee Brewers. They went on to knock off the Brewers, then the Dodgers, and then the Houston Astros to win their first World Series since 1995
The Padres will tell you they’re feeling that same mojo, too. 
“Really there’s no pressure (on the Padres),” Freeman said. “I think when you have that mentality, go out there, and you have nothing to lose, and everyone just talks about the other team, it’s kind of easy to go out there and just play your game.” 
The Padres proved that in New York. 
They intend to do the same in LA. 
“We’re clicking on all levels right now, and we have a lot of belief in our clubhouse about what we can do,” Grisham says. “I think we’ve all believed that’s the kind of team we are all year long. It necessarily hasn’t come out, but this time of year is all about who is playing well right now, and how we’re going to stack up. 
“We think we stack up well.” 
The Padres believe this is their time. 
This is the time they exorcise those Dodger ghosts. 
This is the time they finally punch back. 
“It’s been,” said Clevinger, who’ll start Game 1, “a long time coming.” 
You have no idea.
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.


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