To chants of ‘Beat LA!’, the Padres eliminate the Dodgers
By Scott Miller
One-hundred and eleven wins, melted away in five short nights. The Los Angeles Dodgers, going, going, one reliever at a time toward gone in the seventh inning as the San Diego Padres strung together the rally of their lives.
The Dodgers didn’t know what hit them in a mustard-colored Padres lightning strike Saturday night in San Diego, and it might take them all winter to figure it out.
With five sudden runs in the bottom of the seventh, the Padres delivered a 5-3 knockout punch. The Dodgers go home, and the Padres advance to a most unexpected National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, who eliminated the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves in the other NL Division Series earlier Saturday. The Phillies and the Padres will start the NLCS in San Diego on Tuesday (TBD, Fox/FS1).
That the Dodgers were eliminated in a division series was an absolutely staggering development. Only three teams in history won more games than the Dodgers’ 111 this season: The 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36), the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46) and the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48).
The Padres’ ambush of their fierce rivals up the freeway ranks as one of the greatest postseason upsets in baseball history. During the regular season, the Dodgers were 22 games better than the Padres in the standings, 111 victories to 89. The only time a team beat an opponent that was more than 22 wins better was in the 1906 World Series, when the 93-win Chicago White Sox knocked off the 116-win Chicago Cubs. That difference was 23 games.
The Dodgers’ 111-51 record this season set a franchise record for wins and winning percentage. They finished with the best run differential in the majors — the number of runs a team scores minus the number of runs it allows. Their plus-334 outpaced the Yankees (plus-240) in the American League and Atlanta (plus-180) in the National League.
But in five games against San Diego, the clutch hits rarely dropped and the season-long joyride ran out of gas. When Freddie Freeman doubled home two runs in the third inning Saturday night, it snapped a Dodgers’ streak of 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position in this division series. So many chances, so many blown opportunities. Everyone from manager Dave Roberts to Freeman and beyond in the Dodgers clubhouse agreed: The bats needed to wake up. And they did not.
It was a night of big surprises. The teams waited out a 31-minute rain delay to begin, a rare occurrence in San Diego. Then, just after the Padres’ five-run outburst in the seventh, the skies opened up again and the Dodgers batted in a steady rain in the eighth. By then, the largest postseason crowd in Petco Park history, 45,139, had reignited. They were loud early, but the Dodgers’ 3-0 lead lulled them into a wary trance for much of the game before the Padres’ rally in the seventh brought deafening chants of “Beat LA! Beat LA!” that greeted each San Diego hitter as he stepped into the batter’s box.
As Padres manager Bob Melvin said after Game 3, it was as if the title-starved fans of this city were willing the hits and runs themselves.
The Padres’ seventh inning run came suddenly and without warning. The Dodgers held that 3-0 lead — and the Padres, through the first six innings, had mustered just four hits and had advanced just two runners as far as second base. Los Angeles left-hander Tyler Anderson, making only the second postseason start of his career, shut them out on two hits over five innings. Chris Martin got Roberts’ crew through the sixth.
But then Tommy Kahnle issued a leadoff walk to start the seventh. Trent Grisham, Austin Nola, Ha-Seong Kim and Juan Soto followed with four consecutive singles and, suddenly, the game’s direction changed sharply. The Padres chewed through three relievers in the seventh — Kahnle, Yency Almonte and Alex Vesia — in sending 10 hitters to the plate.
Then reliever Robert Suárez continued his domination of the Dodgers this series with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Sensing the kill, the crowd roared louder.
And when Josh Hader closed it out in the ninth, the Padres punched their ticket to their first NLCS since 1998, when they beat Atlanta to advance to only the second World Series in their history. There, they were swept by the Yankees, one of the three teams in history to win more games than this year’s Dodgers.