Dodgers-Padres Has Become Baseball’s Best Rivalry

Los Angeles is the defending World Series champion but San Diego has made big moves in a bid for NL West supremacy

Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres hits a home run against Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during last year's National League Division Series.

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the Major League Baseball season just under way, the eyes of the industry now turn to one traffic-laden 120-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Southern California. That’s the distance between Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego—the sites of what is shaping up to be the most fascinating rivalry the sport has seen in more than a decade.

The Dodgers are the best team in baseball and have been for a while, combining the analytical prowess of the Oakland Athletics with the financial might of the New York Yankees to emerge as a perennial powerhouse. They won the World Series last year and have only improved since, adding reigning National League Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to an already-stacked pitching rotation.

This winter, the Padres—a 52-year-old franchise still seeking its first championship—took a bold step toward challenging the Dodgers. They dominated the conversation this offseason with their aggressive moves, trading for pitchers Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove and then awarding star shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. a 14-year, $340 million contract extension. On April 9, Musgrove tossed a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers, becoming the first pitcher in Padres history to accomplish the feat.?

It has created a landscape in which two of the NL’s best teams are located two hours apart (traffic permitting). The fate of the season could hinge on which one prevails.

“It was exciting watching what they were doing. I think it’s good for the game of baseball. They’re going out and being aggressive and going for it,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said during spring training. “We’re going to get 19 World Series games this year,” he added, referring to the number of regular-season meetings the two teams are scheduled to play against one another in 2021.

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