Three winnable games in Philadelphia, three losses for the San Diego Padres.
The best season in 24 years for the Friars is over just eight days after knocking off the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers. Padres manager Bob Melvin, who guided his team to the playoffs despite some gut-wrenching circumstances, made several decisions that he will likely think about during the offseason.
Robert Suarez stepped up on several occasions to lead the Padres to the National League Championship Series. He stepped up again on Sunday, stranding an inherited runner on second with nobody out in the seventh inning to hold onto the 3-2 lead.
Melvin decided to leave Suarez in for the eighth inning against the heart of the Philadelphia Phillies order. Ahead 0-2 on J.T. Realmuto, Suarez threw a changeup, which Realmuto served into left field for a single as the tying run. Josh Hader, whom the Padres acquired to pitch in the big moments, was warming in the pen as Bryce Harper stepped to the plate representing the go-ahead run.
“We were trying to split it up between [Hader] and Suarez,” Melvin said.
Hader remained in the bullpen, beyond the outfield fence, and watched as Harper crushed a 2-2 fastball over the wall in left field. Philadelphia now led 4-3, ultimately the final score.
OMG BRYCE HARPER!!! WOW!!! THE SWING OF HIS LIFE!!! pic.twitter.com/9UWmROAuNV
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 23, 2022
The Padres wasted a fabulous Yu Darvish start for the second time in the series. His six innings of two-run ball in the rain and without his best stuff was not enough.
With their backs against the wall, the Padres’ offense clawed back. After a Rhys Hoskins two-run home run in the third inning, San Diego truly faced elimination. Juan Soto, who had scorched the ball all postseason with practically nothing to show for it, crushed a solo home run to deep center field. The Padres still trailed, 2-1.
In the top of the seventh inning, Jake Cronenworth chased Phillies’ starter, Zack Wheeler, with a leadoff single. Cronenworth moved up on a wild pitch and then scored to tie the game on a Josh Bell double. Jose Azocar pinch ran for Bell and scored on two wild pitches with two outs to give the Padres their only lead of the game, one they only held for three outs.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) October 23, 2022
An incredible season came to a close after two gut-wrenching losses. Fittingly, it ended how it started, with Suarez surrendering a lead in the late innings.
Several questions about the future of the Padres loom, especially the future regarding Fernando Tatis Jr. following his surgeries this year. A handful of players are to become free agents, but San Diego will be returning a talented core that aims to get back to the NLCS and further in 2023.