Ranking the greatest individual performances in Padres playoff history
6. Greg Vaughn, 1998 World Series Game 1
In the same game as Gwynn’s shining moment, Vaughn had a solid performance of his own. In the top of the third with the Padres down 2-0, Vaughn lined a ball into the opposite field bleachers for a game-tying, two-run shot.
Directly after Gwynn’s go-ahead, two-run home run, Vaughn came up to bat again. He hit a line drive over the left field wall for his second home run of the day, extending the lead to 5-2.
Vaughn finished with two home runs and three RBIs and, combined with Gwynn, gave the Padres enough offense to win Game 1, but the pitching let them down.
5. Sterling Hitchcock, 1998 NLDS Game 4
Despite Hitchcock winning the 1998 NLCS MVP award, it was during the Division Series against the Astros where Hitchcock delivered his most stellar single-game performance. With the Padres up two games to one, the southpaw took the mound looking to clinch the series and send San Diego to the NLCS.
Opposite Hitchcock was Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for the Astros. The then 27-year old Friar outdueled the Big Unit that day.
Hitchcock faced Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and quieted the strong lineup. All in all, he tossed six innings without walking a batter and allowed just one run while striking out 11. Four of his six innings were of the 1-2-3 variety.
He stifled Houston’s batters and led the Padres to a 6-1 victory, clinching the series.
4. Kurt Bevacqua, 1984 World Series Game 2
The Padres only have one World Series game victory in their team’s history, and that is due to the efforts of bench hero Kurt Bevacqua. Playing against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 at Jack Murphy Stadium, Bevacqua was the benefactor of the Friars’ ability to use the designated hitter.
With the Padres facing a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the fourth, Bevacqua led off with a single. He eventually came around to score on a Bobby Brown ground out, cutting the deficit to one.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, with the score still 3-2 in favor of the Tigers, Bevacqua came up with two runners on base and launched a go-ahead, three-run home run, giving the Friars a 5-3 lead.
The Florida native added a single in the seventh inning and finished the day 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored, his efforts being instrumental in the Friars’ lone World Series win in franchise history.
3. Kevin Brown, 1998 NLCS Game 2
Brown is likely the greatest one-year Padres player in team history. The franchise acquired him ahead of the 19998 season to push the team over the edge, and he did just that. After a strong performance in the Division Series, Brown performed an encore in the NLCS against the mighty Atlanta Braves.
Opposite of Brown in Game 2 was Hall of Famer Tom Glavine for Atlanta. It was a tall task to outduel Glavine and navigate the Braves lineup that had Hall of Famer Chipper Jones along with several other perennial All-Stars.
Brown made it look easy.
The Georgia native carved up his hometown team, allowing just one baserunner through three innings. He didn’t allow a hit until one out in the fourth inning. The Braves had just three at-bats with a runner in scoring position all game long.
Overall, the Braves were hapless and helpless against the onslaught Brown brought that night at Turner Field. He was nearly unhittable.
With a 3-0 lead giving him some leeway, Brown relaxed and mowed down hitter after hitter, eventually throwing a complete-game shutout for the win. Add in 11 strikeouts, and Brown turned in one of the most impressive pitching performances in team history on one of the biggest stages.
2. Kevin Brown, 1998 NLDS Game 1
The difference between his dominant performance against the Braves in the championship series and the one that defeated the Astros in the NLDS is razor-thin. What pushed this performance over the edge was the sheer number of strikeouts.
This was the first game of the 1998 postseason for San Diego, and Brown was looking to set the tone, but he had to face Randy Johnson and the Houston Astros.
For eight innings, hitters like Biggio and Bagwell had no answers for Brown’s dominance. Brown held the two Hall of Famers to an 0-for-4 mark with two strikeouts. The Friars ace finished with a whopping 16 strikeouts overall and did not allow a single run.
The margin for error was paper-thin with Johnson on the hill for Houston. One slip up by Brown could cost the Friars the win. The Padres batters managed to scrape out two runs against the Big Unit, giving Brown a small lead to work with.
Brown was so dominant. He was able to hand the ball off to closer Trevor Hoffman to seal the win on his way out and set the tone for the entire series, one which the Padres went on to win three games to one.
1. Steve Garvey, 1984 NLCS Game 4
A walk-off home run that helped the Padres get to the World Series is almost always going to be on top of the list. This is a type of moment that gets your number retired for that franchise.
Things were looking bleak for the Friars early on in the 1984 NLCS, down two games to one, facing elimination. The Cubs led Game 4 3-2 at one point, but the Friars were able to tie the game 5-5, heading into the ninth inning. Tony Gwynn singled with one out to bring Garvey to the plate.
The 1974 N.L. MVP sent a high fastball to the opposite field in right-center. The ball just sailed over the fence, sending Jack Murphy Stadium into a frenzy and the series into a decisive fifth game, where the Padres would go on to win and get to the World Series.
Game 5 of the NLCS and the ensuing World Series do not happen without Garvey’s heroics in Game 4. This was a franchise who had never been to the playoffs before 1984, and Garvey helped send them to their first-ever Fall Classic.
Despite his 14-year tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers, this moment etched Garvey’s name into Padres lore forever. It inspired the franchise to retire his number six, which now resides alongside the jersey numbers of Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and Trevor Hoffman as former Friars who received that honor.
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.
My bad, you did list Sterling. He was really great, wasn’t he?
Sterling Hitchcock 1998 NLCS MVP.
Andy Hawkins. Only Padres pitcher to ever win a WS game.