Ranking the greatest individual performances in Padres playoff history

Credit: AP Photo

Mandatory Credit: Sporting News

Postseason heroes are made, not born, and sometimes they can come in the most unexpected places. 

The Padres have made the playoffs five times, including two National League pennants. Over that time, some Friars players separated themselves as ones who rise to the occasion and come through when it matters most.

Here is a look at the ten best individual game performances in Padres playoff history.

10. Ken Caminiti, 1996 NLDS Game 3

Facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Padres tried to avoid the three-game sweep with Game 3 at Jack Murphy Stadium. Caminiti was not going to go down without a fight.

Nursing a 2-1 lead in the third inning, that season’s N.L. MVP launched a solo home run to deep right field, extending San Diego’s lead.

Fast forward to the bottom of the eighth, where the Friars were in dire straits, down by one, facing a sweep out of the playoffs. Caminiti led off the inning and sent a ball into the bleachers for a clutch, game-tying home run, his second of the game.

Unfortunately, the Padres’ bullpen could not hold, and the Friars lost the game and the series. However, Caminiti did everything he could in that final game to keep the Padres afloat.

Overall, in the three-game series, Caminiti hit three home runs total with a 1.617 OPS.

9. Chris Young, 2006 NLDS Game 3

The fact that Young was the starting pitching for the only playoff win the Friars have enjoyed this millennium carries a lot of weight. However, Young pitched well in his own right. With the Padres down two games to none in the division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the 6-feet-10 right-hander took the hill, trying to stop the bleeding. It was a pitcher’s duel with Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan until the Friars took the lead in the fourth inning.

Young had to face the likes of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Yadier Molina, with 30 All-Star bids combined, a lineup that eventually carried that Cardinals squad to a World Series championship. Young held the combination of Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen to an 0-for-8 mark with five strikeouts in the game.

Credit: AP Photo

The Princeton alum finished 6 2/3 innings pitched, without allowing a single run and striking out nine, helping the Friars to their only playoff win since 1998.

8. Trevor Hoffman, 1998 NLCS Game 3 

The Padres were up two games to none in the series, just two wins away from a World Series berth. Squarely in their way was the mighty 1990s Atlanta Braves, still in their prime. Friars starter Sterling Hitchcock turned in a valiant effort through five innings as Bruce Bochy turned to the bullpen in the sixth, trying to preserve a slim 2-1 lead. In the top of the eighth inning, things got dicey for the Friars.

Thanks to singles by Andres Galarraga and Eddie Perez and a walk by Ryan Klesko, the bases were loaded for the Braves with two outs, just down by one run and all-star catcher Javy Lopez coming to the plate.

Bochy turned to his now Hall of Fame closer, Trevor Hoffman. Qualcomm Stadium erupted as he trotted to the mound, needing four outs instead of the conventional three to nail down the save and the win.

First, he had to deal with Lopez with the tying run just 90 feet away, and the go-ahead run at second. Hoffman disposed of Lopez on three pitches, ending with a strikeout and clutching onto that slim lead.

Hoffman came back out in the top of the ninth to try and seal the deal. He allowed a leadoff single to Walt Weiss before striking out Gerald Williams and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones for the first two outs. He got Galarraga to fly out and end the game, giving the Friars a commanding three games to none lead in the NLCS. Hoffman accomplished one of the hardest situations a closer can face, coming in during the eighth inning with the bases loaded and being asked to get four outs, and he passed the test with flying colors.

7. Tony Gwynn, 1998 World Series Game 1

Coming through on the game’s biggest stage gets extra points. Tony Gwynn finally got another chance at the World Series after waiting 14 years after the Friars lost the 1984 Fall Classic. In classic Gwynn fashion, he lined a single through the “5.5 hole” between the shortstop and third base in the first inning. Then, in the top of the fifth, facing David Wells at Yankee Stadium, Tony Gwynn got his signature playoff moment.

In a tie game, he lined a ball into right field that crashed off of the facing of the upper deck for a monstrous two-run home run, putting the Padres on top in Game 1 of the World Series. Gwynn is known for a lot of things, but majestic, long home runs is not one of them, except in this case.

Mr. Padre added another hit in the eighth inning, trying to spark a rally down by four runs.

All in all, Gwynn went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, trying his best to give the Padres a fighting chance against the Yankees in the World Series.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

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