San Diego baseball fans have been waiting for a long time to party like this, and the Padres were more than happy to finally oblige.
What made it so much more fun was that they overthrew the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the majors this year and a team that had beaten the Padres regularly for the better part of two seasons.
Jake Cronenworth hit a tiebreaking, two-run single with two outs in the seventh inning and San Diego passed the Dodgers 5-3 on Saturday-evening to advance to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 1998.
Petco Park shook and the sold-out crowd of 45,139 roared as Josh Hader lashed out at Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman to end the Padres’ third straight win against the Dodgers.
San Diego Padres defeated the Dodgers on Saturday night to make their first NCLS since 1998
It led to cheering scenes in a sold-out Petco Park – 45,139 fans attended
Hader and third baseman Manny Machado jumped into each other’s arms and the rest of the team joined them in a wild party on the infield grass as fireworks went off over the downtown baseball field. Machado and Juan Soto urged fans for more as they all enjoyed a rare rainstorm in San Diego.
“Our fans have waited so long and I was that fan who was waiting,” said Joe Musgrove, the hometown kid who started the clincher. “It feels good to be on this side of the ball, I can tell you that, but these fans deserve to celebrate tonight.
“I know the job isn’t done yet, we still have a lot of baseball ahead of us, but this should be celebrated,” Musgrove said. “Those guys gave it to us all year round and when it came down to it and we had to win ball games, we found ways to do it.”
Before a crowd with signs ‘Beat LA! Beat LA!’, the Padres stunned the 111-win Dodgers with a five-run seventh to win their best-of-five NL Division Series 3-1.
“It’s going to be a party here tonight,” said Musgrove, who grew up a Padres fan in suburban San Diego.
“I mean, since I was a little kid, we’ve been beaten up by the Dodgers. But when it comes down to it and the games matter, this team stepped up from head to toe.”
The Padres had lost nine consecutive series to the Dodgers before winning the main one.
San Diego hosts the Philadelphia Phillies in Games 1 and 2 of an all-wild card NLCS on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Phillies defeated the defending champion Atlanta Braves 8-3 earlier in the day to win their NLDS in four games.
“This is what the city has been waiting for for a long time,” said Machado, the $300 million Padres third baseman and undisputed leader.
The Padres last reached the NLCS 24 years ago when they defeated Atlanta in six games and then were swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series. A handful of that team’s players watched from a luxurious suite, including Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman and midfielder Steve Finley.
It was a crushing end for the Dodgers after the best regular season record in club history and manager Dave Roberts’ prediction in spring training that they would win the World Series.
‘Shock factor, very high. Disappointment, very high. It’s crushing,’ said Roberts. “Everyone gave everything they had all year round and a great season. The great thing about baseball is its unpredictability, and the hard part is the same.
“Nothing I can say will make it feel any better. We obviously didn’t expect to be in this position,” he added.
The game was delayed 31 minutes at the start by showers, which returned in the eighth inning and caused a short delay while the ground team was working on the mound.
Juan Soto celebrates after hitting a single in the seventh inning against the Dodgers
Pitcher Luis Garcia pours beer on himself as post-game celebrations ramped up
After lefthander Tyler Anderson thwarted the Padres through five scoreless innings, San Diego broke through against the Dodgers bullpen in the seventh.
Jurickson Profar walked in the lead against Tommy Kahnle, finished third on the single by Trent Grisham and scored when the infield single by Austin Nola slipped onto Freeman’s glove on first base. Yency Almonte, who took the loss, came on and was greeted by Kim Ha-seong’s RBI double inside the third baseline, followed by Soto’s tying single to the right.
With two outs and the crowd on their feet, Cronenworth singled to center local product Alex Vesia to give the Padres the lead. on the go home. Soto, taken over from Washington in a blockbuster on August 2, slipped home, jumped up and cheered.
“We’ve been talking about it all day – we’ll win tonight whatever the situation,” Cronenworth said.
“It took a team effort to beat a really good team and we did it,” said Machado.
After the initial rain delay, fans were excited in anticipation of Musgrove throwing his hometown Padres into the NL Championship Series. The big right-hander from the suburban El Cajon, who was first All-Star in 2022, was the first Padres pitcher from San Diego to make a postseason start in his hometown.
But Anderson outpitted Musgrove and held the Padres to two hits for five innings.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the third. Betts walked with one out and Turner scorched a grounder past third baseman Machado, who has carried the Padres for much of the season, to move Betts into third place. Freeman, who helped the Braves win the World Series last year before signing with the Dodgers as a free agent, doubled the right-field line to bring them both in.
The Padres players celebrating on the pitch after their momentous win
Will Smith hit a sacrifice fly against Steven Wilson with the bases loaded in the seventh for a 3-0 lead, but winning pitcher Tim Hill prevented further damage.
The Dodgers will be left with an empty feeling. They won the NL West for the ninth time in 10 seasons, finishing 22 games for San Diego. The Dodgers went 14-5 against the Padres in the regular season.
Musgrove tried for his second straight win in the playoff series. On Sunday-evening, he dominated the New York Mets at Citi Field, giving up only one basehit and one walk in seven innings in a 6-0 win that sent the Padres to the NLDS.
He gave up two runs and six hits in six innings against the Dodgers, struckout eight and walked three.