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Trent Grisham center of the Padres-Dodgers rivalry

There is an unlikely catalyst at the heart of this burgeoning Padres-Dodgers rivalry.
For all the superstars and family names featured on these two lists, it was 23-year-old Padres center-back Trent Grisham who set the fire on fire. His 14 September home run (and celebration) against Clayton Kershaw sparked a gut reaction from

There is an unlikely catalyst at the heart of this burgeoning Padres-Dodgers rivalry.

For all the superstars and family names featured on these two lists, he was the 23-year-old central defender of the Padres. Trent Grisham that turned things on. His home run (and celebration) on September 1

4 against Clayton Kershaw sparked a visceral reaction from the Dodgers bench. That moment would serve as an undercurrent for the fireworks display in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night.

Game Date Time Matchup / Result TV / Highlights
Gm 1 6 October LAD 5, SD 1 Clock
Gm 2 October 7 LAD 6, SD 5 Clock
Gm 3 October 8 21:00 LAD @ SD MLBN
* Gm 4 October 9 21:00 LAD @ SD FS1
* Gm 5 October 10 8:00 pm SD @ LAD FS1

Relaxed and unassuming off the pitch, Grisham is fiery. Score his home runs using American Sign Language to jot down his season total. When the Dodgers bench chirped to him in September, he responded by emphatically jumping to the home plate with both feet.

As such, Grisham saw no problem with Manny Machado throwing his bat on Wednesday night. Or with Brusdar Graterol throwing the hat. Or with Machado’s reaction to the celebration of Graterol.

• Hat thrown, kiss blown: SD-LA heats up

“The passion, the intensity, I’m sure when kids watch it on TV, they love it,” Grisham said. “When I watch big league games on TV, I’d love to see stuff like that. It’s fun. It’s part of what makes you want to play big league baseball.”

Grisham’s place in baseball’s fastest-growing rivalry seems secure. He is destined to become the Padres midfielder of the future, after a coup by general manager A.J. Preller, who landed Grisham and right-hand Zach Davies from Milwaukee in November.

In his debut season at Padres, Grisham scored .251 / .352 / .456 with 10 home runs. Perhaps most importantly, he has established himself as an excellent defender in midfield. It hasn’t always been a certainty.

When the Padres acquired Grisham from the Brewers, he was coming out of a costly mistake as a right back in the 2019 NL Wild Card Game. He had made all 14 starts at the center. Yet that’s where the Padres thought of using it. They were so sure he would grow up there, they swapped defensive wizard Manuel Margot for Tampa Bay on the eve of spring training.

“The way he moves, the jumps from the balls, all his movement patterns, have given you a pretty good indicator,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “A week into spring training, looking at it in the games, you felt pretty sure it would be fine.”

Everything went as well as the Padres could have imagined. Grisham was worth six Outs Above Average, according to Statcast, behind only Jackie Bradley Jr. and Luis Robert, who were worth seven each, for the best MLB among outfielders. Dodgers star Cody Bellinger wasn’t far behind, he was worth five OAAs.

Bellinger, of course, stole the show Wednesday night with his robbery of Tatis. But Grisham has had the game of the game up to that point. He swept deep into the right midfield gap to take extra bases away from Will Smith, keeping the Padres at close range.

The game had only a 25% chance of catching. Grisham needed to cover 103 feet in 5.4 seconds to track the ball, and he needed to do it with the right midfield wall looming. It was an incredibly difficult game that Grisham made it look easy.

That’s usually how it does it. According to Statcast, Grisham’s jumps – the ground he covers in the first three seconds when chasing a volley – are among the best in baseball. After the release of the field, Grisham has, on average, moved an elite 2.2 feet in the right direction more than an average defender would. (If 2.2 feet doesn’t seem like much, think about how many balls hit the tip of a glove or were inches off.)

Analyze it further and in the 1.5 seconds after the field release, Grisham covered more ground on average than any qualified winger in baseball.

When Grisham blocked Smith’s deep push, he couldn’t resist shuffling the pot a little longer. After making the final in front of the Dodgers bullpen, he fingered the baseball into the bullpen, then turned and trotted back to his bench.

Replays showed the ball dripping back into the center court, likely being sent back into the field by a Dodgers rescuer. Controversial – just like Grisham likes these games against L.A.

“It’s fun to play in a really competitive environment with a team we’re trying to beat really badly,” Grisham said. “I’m sure they want to beat us over there more than anything else. It just makes it fun. We’re competitors, that’s what we like to do and doing it on one of the bigger stages, like I said, it just makes it fun.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

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