Padres use magical 7th inning to advance to first NLCS in 24 years

Credit: USA Today Sports

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Credit: AP Photo

For the first time in 24 years, the San Diego Padres are going to the National League Championship Series.

The Friars came back to beat the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 on Saturday night. In front of a packed house of 45,139 fans at Petco Park, the Padres used a magical 7th inning to beat Los Angeles, who won 111 games in 2022.

The game did not start out very well for the Padres, as Joe Musgrove was not as sharp as he was in his previous playoff start against the Mets. Musgrove got through the first two innings unscathed but gave up a two-run double to Freddie Freeman in the third inning that put the Dodgers up 2-0.

The Padres’ bats were not very lively early on, making a two-run lead seem bigger than it was. The Dodgers would go on to score one more run in the top of the 7th to go up 3-0, and things were getting tense in San Diego. As the Padres came up in the bottom of the 7th, everything changed.

Jurickson Profar came to the plate to lead off the inning and walked, paving the way for what would end up being the most important inning in recent Padres’ memory. Trent Grisham followed Profar with a big single into the gap between right and center, sending Profar to third.  Austin Nola followed Grisham with a single off the glove of Freeman, plating the Padres’ first run.  After the Dodgers changed pitchers, Ha-Seong Kim doubled down the third base line, cutting the score to one run.

Juan Soto followed with a sharp single to right that tied the game at three with still nobody out. The Dodgers got Manny Machado and Brandon Drury out, leaving runners at first and third with two outs.

Credit: AP Photo

Jake Cronenworth then came to the plate and delivered the hit of the game, knocking in two runs with a single, thanks to a stolen base by Juan Soto. The two-run single gave the Padres a 5-3 lead that would hold for the remainder of the game.

“Once we got Anderson (Los Angeles’ starter) out of the game, he’s been giving us a tough time all year. It was just about stringing a couple good at-bats together, and the production we’ve gotten from the bottom of the lineup has been unbelievable,” said Musgrove after the game about the team’s mindset down 3-0.

Robert Suarez, who has been dominant all postseason, made quick work of the Dodgers in the 8th inning, just as the rain began to fall in San Diego. It was the second time that the rain had affected the game, as the beginning of the game was delayed for 30 minutes.

Josh Hader came in for the 9th, having to face the best three hitters for the Dodgers. Hader struck out the side, sending Petco Park and San Diego into a frenzy. The Padres, who had struggled heavily against the Dodgers for years, finally got the monkey off their backs and won one of the biggest series in team history.

“It hasn’t processed yet. I’m still trying to enjoy this, have a blast out here. This stuff doesn’t get old, come on. Let’s keep doing this,” said Padres catcher Austin Nola after the game while celebrating in the team clubhouse.

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The Padres, on their way to the NLCS, defeated two 100-win teams, facing some of the best pitchers and players in the game.

San Diego will face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS starting on Tuesday, holding home-field advantage. This means that for the first time in Petco Park history, the Padres will host an NLCS game.

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