Max Scherzer’s dominance leaves Padres envious as Dodgers complete the sweep

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In the hours leading up to the July 30 trade deadline, the San Diego Padres envisioned Max Scherzer delivering the type of dominant outing he delivered Thursday at Petco Park. The right-hander tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in front of a buzzing sellout crowd. He scowled and he prowled and he overwhelmed hitters.

The Padres just imagined him logging those performances in their uniform, not for the club they’ve so desperately wanted to overtake. But the Dodgers, not the Padres, acquired Scherzer that day, swooping in to steal the biggest pitching prize along with Trea Turner. And on Thursday, Scherzer shut down the plunging Padres to complete the Dodgers’ three-game series sweep with a 4-0 win.

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Scherzer recorded 10 strikeouts to one walk and 104 pitches in his fifth start as a Dodger and first start at Petco Park since he gave up seven runs over 3 2/3 innings as a member of the Washington Nationals on July 8. The 37-year-old right-hander, who’s given up five runs in 29 innings with the Dodgers, lowered his earned-run average to 2.51.

“I was just able to sequence,” Scherzer said. “I got in a good rhythm with [Austin Barnes] behind the plate and was just able to execute any pitch at any time.”

The outing helped net the Dodgers (81-47) their 16th win in 18 games, keeping them within 2 1/2 games of the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West with 34 games to go.

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The Dodgers’ starters in the sweep — Julio Urías, Walker Buehler and Scherzer — combined to hold San Diego to one unearned run across 19 1/3 innings as the Padres (68-61) managed just nine hits in 34 innings in the series. They’re 16 games out of first place and two games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild-card spot.

“Our guys smell it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We know it’s a sprint right now and we needed to tighten things up and play with some emotion and some energy and we did that this series.”

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Max Scherzer receives a standing ovation from Dodgers fans as he walks off the field after being pulled in the eighth inning against the Padres at Petco Park on Thursday.

(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

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The Dodgers are nearly guaranteed to make the postseason. On Thursday, they gave an indication of what their roster could look like.

Two years ago, when Gavin Lux was laying waste to the upper minor leagues, the Dodgers saw him helping them win games like Thursday’s. He had become the organization’s top prospect. He was rendered untouchable in trade talks. He was a key component for the immediate and long-term future.

But Lux wasn’t on the field Thursday. He wasn’t even on the team. The 23-year-old infielder was optioned to triple-A Oklahoma City because, after giving him a five-month runway, the front office determined other players gave them a better chance of winning.

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“Guys are playing well,” Roberts said. “We’re in a situation where we need to win ballgames.”

The expectations were high for Lux, Baseball America’s 2019 minor league player of the year. He began the season as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman and took over at shortstop when Corey Seager missed two months with a broken hand. But his plummeting standing on the club was uncovered when the Dodgers acquired Turner to play second base while Lux was on the injured list with a strained left hamstring.

“Nothing’s changed as far as what we think of Gavin, the person or the player,” Roberts said. “He’s uber talented.”

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The 23-year-old infielder has a .217 batting average and .647 OPS in 472 career plate appearances while encountering sporadic defensive troubles. He started just one game since coming off the injured list with a strained left hamstring Aug. 17. He was the last position player the Dodgers used in Wednesday’s win, pinch-hitting in the 16th inning after midnight. It was his first at-bat in a week.

Roberts said Lux will play third base and right field in addition to second base for Oklahoma City. His best chance to crack the starting lineup next year is as second baseman with Turner shifting to shortstop if Seager leaves in free agency.

Highlights from the Dodgers’ 4-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

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This season, he could return to the club in September when rosters expand from 26 to 28 players. But, barring injury, he’ll be a bench player — if he’s on the roster at all.

Matt Beaty joined Lux on the express to Oklahoma City to make room on the roster for Mookie Betts and Darien Núñez.

Núñez, a left-handed reliever, was called up to give the Dodgers a fresh arm in the bullpen after they used nine relievers in Wednesday’s 16-inning win. Betts was activated from his second stint on the injured list in a month because of a nagging right hip injury. He started in right field and batted third, not in his customary leadoff spot, because Turner will remain as the club’s leadoff hitter. Betts went 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts.

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The Dodgers jumped out to a lead on Yu Darvish in the third inning behind an unexpected duo: Billy McKinney and Austin Barnes, the No. 7 and No. 8 hitters in their lineup. McKinney drew a leadoff walk before Barnes hammered a cutter for a two-run home run.

Turner and Seager later recorded back-to-back doubles for the third run, more than enough for Scherzer, who pitched into the eighth inning to give all but two relievers the night off with some help from a nifty inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in the fifth that squashed the Padres’ only scoring threat.

“That’s what the team needed,” Scherzer said. “The team needed me to pitch deep into the game today.”

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For a few hours last month, the Padres thought they would be the team benefiting from those outings. But the Dodgers beat them to Scherzer, and they beat them again this week.

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