SAN DIEGO – Their 111 regular-season wins faded into five short nights. The Los Angeles Dodgers were go, and go, one savior at a time, and they basically went in the seventh inning as the San Diego Padres tied together the streak of their lives.
The Dodgers didn’t know what hit them in Saturday night’s mustard-colored Padres lightning strike, and it might take all winter to find out.
With five runs at the bottom of the seventh, Padres delivered a 5-3 knockout punch. The Dodgers go home, and the Padres advance to the highly unexpected National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, who Get rid of the reigning world champion Atlanta Braves In the other NL section series Saturday. Al Feliz and Padres will start the NLCS in San Diego on Tuesday.
“The shock factor, it’s very high,” said Dave Roberts, director of Dodgers. “Disappointment, very high. It is overwhelming.”
Eliminating the Dodgers in the Division Series was an amazing development. Only three baseball teams have won more games than the 2022 Dodgers: the 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36), the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46) and the 1998 Yankees (114-48).
Many of their nights this summer ended with a handshake streak and an anticipation of what was to come.
Four games in postseason, they were talking about the summer in the past tense.
It’s tough,” said Freddy Freeman, first baseman. “This was a really good team. A really good team. October baseball can be brutal.”
As the Padres family gleefully flocked from their hiding place to start a raucous celebration after Josh Hader approached from the side in the ninth inning, area code 619 seemed to have taken off into orbit. The Dodgers who started tonight sure they’d send the series back to Los Angeles for Game Five on Sunday instead failed to break through the Petco Park wall of sound during two evenings and 18 rounds of the deafening roar of “Beat LA! Defeat Los Angeles! “
When it was over, the Dodgers slowly emptied out of their lair into the quiet of their club and frank talk from Roberts. Their arrow, Clayton Kershaw, was one of the last to leave. The second man on base Max Munsey was the last, and he stood alone for several minutes in the empty bunker, staring at the sight of thunder in the field.
Manny Machado stood by the bowler’s hill screaming and flapping his arms wildly, urging the audience to raise the decibel level even higher. Pitcher Blake Snell raced around the field holding a life-size plastic goose high, a nod to the birds that landed on the field in Los Angeles in Game Two. Although that goose was captured by the ground crew and, according to the Dodgers, released into the wild, Padres adopted it in spirit as a good luck charm.
It wasn’t the World Championships, but the Padres ambush their fierce rivals on the highway ranks as one of the greatest post-season upsets in baseball history. During the regular season, the Dodgers were 22 games better than Padres in the standings, 111 to 89. The only time a team beat an opponent with more than 22 wins was at the 1906 World Championships, when they scored 93. The Chicago White Sox eliminated the Chicago Cubs with 116 wins. This difference was 23 games.
“When you don’t win the world championship, it doesn’t matter if you win 80 matches or 120 matches,” Freeman said. “It’s just a disappointment.”
Kershaw echoed the disappointment, noting that “that’s what makes winning great and making losing so bad.” He continued, “Part of being in the post-season is that it’s surprising. It ends when you least expect it.”
The Dodgers have a franchise record for win and win percentage. They finished with the best running difference in the majors – the number of runs a team scored minus the number of laps allowed. Their team of 334 outperformed the Yankees (plus 240) in the MLS and Atlanta (plus 180) in the National League.
But in four games against San Diego, the clutch hits rarely drop, and the all-season amusement ride ran out of gas. When Freeman doubled two runs in the third inning on Saturday night, he cut the Dodgers’ 0-for-20 streak with the runners in the scoring center in this division series. So many opportunities, so many missed opportunities. Everyone from Roberts to Freeman and beyond at the Dodgers Club agreed that the bats need to wake up. And they didn’t.
“I’m sure there were three games during the regular season that we didn’t do well either,” Freeman said. “It is unfortunate that what happened to us in October.”
It was a night of big surprises. The teams waited a 31-minute timeout for the rain to start, an extremely rare event in San Diego. Then, after the five-round Padres blast on the seventh, the skies opened up again and the Dodgers thundered in steady rain on the eighth. By then, the largest post-season crowd in Petco Park history, 45139, was on fire again. Crowds were raucous early on, but the Dodgers’ 3-0 lead lulled them into cautious euphoria for much of the match before the Padres Rally on the seventh brought on more deafening chants of “Beat LA! Beat LA!”, which greeted every Padres batsman. When he climbed into the mixture box.
As San Diego manager Bob Melvin said after Game Three, it was as if the title-hungry fans in this city were ready for success and managing themselves.
Padres’ seventh inning extension came suddenly and without warning. The Dodgers took a 3-0 lead, and Padres, in the first six rounds, took just four hits and advanced only twice to second base. Los Angeles left-back Tyler Anderson made only their second post-season start in his career, denying them two-strokes over five innings. Chris Martin got on the Roberts crew during the sixth.
But then Tommy Kannell was allowed to walk the lead to start the seventh round. He was followed by Trent Grisham, Austin Nola, Ha Seung Kim and Juan Soto with four songs in a row and suddenly the direction of the game changed sharply. Padres chewed through three painkillers in the seventh – Kahnle, Yency Almonte and Alex Vesia – sending 10 hitters to the plate.
“One of the craziest baseball innings I’ve ever seen,” said Padres player Joe Musgrove, who allowed two runs and six runs over six innings. “Once we got Anderson out of the game, we knew we had a good chance of beating their games. These guys have been used to the last couple of days. We’ve seen them a few times.”
Jake Cronenworth’s two-stage single proved the difference in the game. This came after left Vecia replaced the right hand with Almonte 1 and 0. Roberts said Almonte should have given up the first thing to buy more time for Vecia to warm up. Kronworth, who said he never faced a pitch change in the middle of a fight, took the time to go back to dugout and soak up Physia’s wits. It worked.
Loyal Robert Suarez then continued his dominance of the Dodgers in this series with the eighth inning 1-2-3. The crowd felt the killing grow louder.
And when Hader finished the match at nine, Padres struck their ticket for their first NLCS since 1998, when they beat Atlanta to advance to only the second World Championship in their history. There, they were swept away by the Yankees, one of the three teams in history to have won more games than the Dodgers this year.
Al Padres didn’t want any part in returning to Los Angeles on Sunday. For one thing, they knew Julio Urillas, the ace of the Dodgers, would wait. Mostly, though, they wanted to throw a party for their fans at Petco Park.
“As much as we know there’s a lot of baseball ahead of us and more games to be played, it’s something to celebrate,” Musgrove said. “Because for a long time these guys in the north have been beating us up and kicking us out of the playoff game and taking the league from us every year.
“So these fans deserve to celebrate tonight as a moment to turn the tide, we hope.”
On the other side, the vaults were empty and the season that was for the ages was almost over. As the pitcher Dustin May was heading toward the door, he paused long enough to give Kershaw a goodbye flick on his shoulder.
Kershaw looked up and smiled heartily and said, “Look, brother.”
After tonight, there will be no more baseball for the Dodgers. There will only be winter.
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