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Padres Vanquish Dragon: Finally Beating L.A., Friars Break Dodger Hearts, Head to NLCS 


National League MLB Petco
Ha-Seong Kim watches the action as he scores the go-ahead run in the Padres’ series clincher against the Dodgers. Photo credit: Screen shot, FS1

The Padres completed a stunning reversal against the Dodgers Saturday, winning their Division Series in four games thanks to a 5-3 victory at an overjoyed Petco Park.

The underdog Padres dispatched their second 100-win team in a row on the strength of a five-run seventh inning, capped by a two-RBI single by Jake Cronenworth. They now move on to the National League Championship Series, which starts Tuesday, to face the Phillies, another unlikely NLCS team.

But the Friars also cast off the Dodgers, winners of 111 games – the most in Major League Baseball this year – a team that won 14 of the teams’ 19 regular-season meetings in 2022 and in decisive fashion.

But the NL West division winners’ bats were often silenced in the series, thanks to hot hands in the Padres bullpen. Unexpected production from the bottom of the batting order, especially Trent Grisham and Austin Nola, did the rest as the momentum from their wild-card series win over the New York Mets carried over to the Dodgers series.

The Padres, despite their Game 1 loss to L.A., seemed to cruise in the next two games as the Dodgers went 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position.

Saturday, however, was a struggle, and the Dodgers led 3-0 in by the seventh, when the Padres sent 10 men to the plate, as Jurickson Profar walked and Grisham and Nola came through again with singles to start the rally. They all crossed the plate to tie the game. Ha-Seong Kim and Juan Soto would eventually score the go-ahead runs, thanks to Cronenworth.

The Dodgers offered no challenge after that as Robert Suarez retired the side 1-2-3 in the eighth and Josh Hader posted his third save in four games, striking out Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman to overwhelming cries of “Beat L.A!” in Petco Park.

Two months ago in an interview during an ESPN broadcast of a San Diego 4-0 loss to L.A., Padres owner Peter Seidler said this of the Dodgers – “They’re the dragon up the freeway that we’re trying to slay.” As of Saturday, mission accomplished. 

The Friars will face the Phillies in a match-up of teams that reached the playoffs as wild cards. And suddenly, they will have home-field advantage, as they won 89 games in the regular season as compared to Philadelphia’s 87 victories.

The NLCS begins Tuesday and continues Wednesday in San Diego before moving east Friday through Sunday.

The Phillies eliminated the Atlanta Braves Saturday in Game 4 of their NL Division Series, leaving the Houston Astros as the only 100-win team remaining in the playoffs, with 106 victories. Houston finished off Seattle Saturday, sweeping the Mariners in a series capped by an 18-inning 1-0 Astros win.


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