Fernando Tatis Jr., as he’s poised to take Dodger reliever Brusdar Graterol deep in the key seventh inning. His shot, though ended up in centerfielder Cody Bellinger’s glove. Photo credit: Screenshot, @dodgers, via Twitter

Fernando Tatis Jr., National League MVP candidate, meet Cody Bellinger, reigning MVP.

The dynamic duo played key roles in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 6-5 win in Game 2 Wednesday, as they took a commanding 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres, though, trailing 6-3, pushed back hard, scoring two in the top of the ninth to narrow the gap. They chased Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, and reliever Joe Kelly walked Tatis and Manny Machado to load the bases.

But Kelly induced Eric Hosmer, a seasoned postseason hand, to ground out to end the ballgame.

It was the second electrifying moment of the game.

In the seventh, with the Padres trailing 4-3, Tatis launched a rocket off Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol that could have given his Padres a one-run lead.

Bellinger tracked the shot to deep center, twisting, before catching up to it and leaping at the wall to steal a home run from Tatis.

The young star, stunned and frustrated, walked away, having ended the inning rather than putting his team ahead. Bellinger exulted, as did Graterol, who blew a kiss and threw down his glove, drawing the ire of Machado, waiting in the on-deck circle. Dodger Max Muncy returned his sentiments, while Mookie Betts waved the angry Padres off.

Irked or no, the Padres paid their respect to Bellinger after the game. “What can you say, it’s a hell of a play,” manager Jayce Tingler said.

“It’s a shame there wasn’t 50,000 people in the stands to see that catch,” Hosmer said.

The play stirred the passions of the inter-division rivals, the up-and-coming Padres and dominant Dodgers, NL West division champions for most of the past decade.

The Padres now though face a must-win game Thursday – and each game of the remainder of the five-game series – if they are to move on to contend for the NL pennant.

Yet Hosmer insisted, “We still have life left.”

Early on, starters Zach Davies and Clayton Kershaw, though neither was dominant, had restored some order after a messy Game 1. Davies gave up four runs over five innings, including a solo homer to Bellinger in the fourth, but kept his team in the game.

He also ate up some innings, a gift after the Padres’ bullpen dependence throughout the postseason.

Kershaw, staked to a 4-1 lead in the sixth, gave up a back-to-back homers, the first to Machado, whose fiery celebration brought life to the dugout. Hosmer followed with one of his own.

Machado, Hosmer said, “just sparked the whole entire team.”

The Dodgers, though, with Bellinger’s catch to spark them, added two runs in their half of the seventh to make it 6-3.

The Padres went down 1-2-3 in the eighth, but used an 11-pitch at bat by Jake Cronenworth in the ninth to launch their late rally.

Cronenworth reached on an infield single, and pinch hitter Mitch Moreland doubled him home. Trent Grisham singled to bring Moreland in and knock Jansen out of the game.

Tatis and Machado fouled off pitch after pitch from Kelly before walking to give Hosmer his bases-loaded opportunity, but the rally came up short.

Tingler pointed out his team’s “great at-bat after great at-bat” in the ninth to argue that the Padres “still got some gas in the tank” for Game 3.

Mike Clevinger, though, who left Tuesday’s Game 1 in the second inning as his elbow woes continue, won’t be able to help fuel the team. He cannot continue in the Division Series, the team announced, so Dan Altavilla replaced him on the roster.

The Padres and Dodgers continue the series at 6:08 p.m. Thursday in a game airing on MLB Network. They are playing in Arlington, TX. as part of the baseball plan to use neutral playoff sites during the pandemic.

– Staff reports

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