Image credit: Trent Grisham (Harry How/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO—Slowly but surely, the Padres and the city of San Diego are starting to believe.
They have good reason to. After getting thrashed, punked and embarrassed by the Dodgers for the better part of the last 11 years, the Padres are one game away from throwing off the yoke.
Blake Snell held the Dodgers to one run over 5.1 innings, Trent Grisham homered and the Padres held on for a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Friday night. The Padres lead the series two games to one and can clinch it with a win in Game 4 on Saturday.
“We coming tomorrow,” said outfielder Juan Soto, who doubled and scored in the first inning to help stake the Padres to an early lead. “We don’t want to take it easy because we have the lead. We gotta get it done. And a lot of people in this clubhouse, they’re hungry to go out there and beat those guys.”
The Padres never trailed in their first home playoff game with fans since 2006, getting the raucous crowd of 45,137 behind them early and keeping the momentum the whole way.
Led by Snell and a shutdown bullpen, the Padres turned back repeated Dodgers threats again and again. The Padres stranded seven Dodgers runners and held their fearsome lineup 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers brought the tying or go-ahead runs to the plate in the third, fifth, sixth and eighth innings. Each time, the Padres held them down.
“I think anytime you hold a lineup like that down like we have here, that’s hard to do,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “But we feel like it’s … a lot of power arms pitching well toward the end of the season, into the postseason, inspired even a little bit more so.”
Holding down the Dodgers is not something the Padres have done much in the recent past. The Dodgers are 144-73 against the Padres since 2011. They went 14-5 against the Padres this season and outscored them 109-47, repeatedly routing them to quash any notion of an equitable rivalry.
But in the postseason, the Padres have risen up. Even in a Game 1 loss, it was apparent the Padres wouldn’t roll over as they so often had in the past. The Dodgers raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first three innings. Rather than let the game get out of hand as so many of their previous matchups had, the Padres buckled down, held the Dodgers scoreless the rest of the way and crawled their way back to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the sixth. Though they failed to convert and ultimately lost 5-3, it was a notable departure from how their previous matchups with the Dodgers had gone, and a sign that something might finally be different.
The Padres drove that point home in Game 2, jumping out to an early lead and rolling to a 5-3 win in Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers offense threatened again and again but the Padres held firm, holding them 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and artfully escaping numerous jams with standout defense and a lockdown bullpen.
The same formula led to victory in Game 3. The Padres jumped out to an immediate lead on Jake Cronenworth’s two-out, RBI single in the first inning to score Soto. Grisham continued his torrid postseason with a leadoff homer in the fourth inning. Before, after and in-between, the Padres withstood everything the Dodgers threw at them.
“I mean, we’re starting to figure each other out,” Snell said. “We’re starting to really enjoy playing the game together, and we’re a real selfless team right now. It’s pretty exciting.”
Snell effectively worked out of trouble from the start. Mookie Betts stroked a single to lead off the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Snell struck out the next three hitters to strand him there.
Snell again faced trouble in the third. With two on, no outs out and the fearsome top of the Dodgers order due up, Snell got Betts to line out and struck out Trea Turner for the second time in as many at-bats to ease the pressure. After walking Freddie Freeman to load the bases, Snell got Will Smith to pop up meekly to first base to escape unscathed.
Again in the fifth, the Dodgers had two on and no outs and the top of their lineup due up. Again Snell was able to limit the damage. He induced a sacrifice fly from Betts, a foul popup from Turner and a routine grounder from Freeman, escaping with the Padres 2-1 lead.
The Padres bullpen took it from there. After Max Muncy’s one-out double in the sixth sent Snell from the game, Nick Martinez entered and promptly struck out Justin Turner and got a weak grounder back to the mound from Chris Taylor to end the threat and strand the tying run on second.
Robert Suarez continued his postseason dominance in the eighth, working around a leadoff single to retire Freeman, Smith and Muncy and punctuating the inning by striking out Muncy swinging through a 99.5 mph fastball.
And closer Josh Hader, reborn after his midseason collapse, closed it out in the ninth.
The Padres bullpen has held the Dodgers scoreless over 13 innings in the series. They are on a 15-inning scoreless streak overall in the postseason.
“No one takes anything for granted in the bullpen,” Martinez said. “We’re doing our work every day. We’re not going in there, you know, with any kind of cocky attitude. We still have that dog-like mentality and hunger for the situation.”
When Trayce Thompson swung through a Hader 99.5 mph fastball for the final out, Petco Park reached an ear-ringing pitch. After so many years of last-place finishes and beatdowns at the hands of the Dodgers, the rush of unexpected victory is at hand.
With one more win, the Padres can wash away all the pain the Dodgers have caused them.
“The 100-plus losses I probably have to the Dodgers, I don’t care about them anymore,” said first baseman Wil Myers, the longest-tenured Padre. “One more win against these guys will make all that worth it.”