Finally, the playoffs return to Petco Park

It’s been 16 years since the last postseason game at Petco Park. 

So long that Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols (who just retired at the end of this season) played in that game along with Adam Wainwright, as the St. Louis Cardinals were on their way to a series sweep of the San Diego Padres in the 2006 NLDS. The Cardinals went on to win the World Seres. 

The Padres returned to make their seventh postseason appearance and defeated the New York Mets on the road for their fifth series win. A home game in the postseason wasn’t guaranteed for the Padres. It took a San Diego native in Jose Musgrove to make it happen.

“They have been waiting for this for a while and they have been supporting us all year,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said of the home fans. “It seems like every game we get between 35,000 and 40,000 people there. The drama that took place in the regular season, we had 10 or 12 walk-offs that they were a big part of. They incentivize us. We feel like they’re part of us.”

It’s not enough for the Padres to bring postseason baseball back to Petco Park, but they also brought their rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, with them. The Dodgers have been a juggernaut over the last few years and have had the Padres number as well.

The Padres opened the series with Mike Clevinger, who started Game 1 of the 2020 NLDS against the Dodgers and went straight to Tommy John Surgery.

“I know 2020, we tried to almost tape my arm together to get me out there, and it just didn’t last,” Clevinger said before Game 1. He gave up four runs on six hits in 2.2 innings against the Dodgers in a 5-3 loss. The Padres bullpen held the Dodgers in check the rest of the game, retiring the last 14 batters.

The Padres bounced back in Game 2 to return to San Diego with the series tied. The two teams traded home runs with Manny Machado providing much of the scoring for the Padres early on. Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish pitched evenly through the first five innings. The game changed afterwards when the Padres bullpen once again shut the Dodgers down and a Jake Cronenworth home run capped off a 5-3 win.

It was the Padres’ first-ever postseason victory against the Dodgers in five tries. The San Diego bullpen has totaled 9 1/3 scoreless innings so far in the NLDS.

“Ever since (Tuesday) night, they have been awesome, coming in and pounding the strike zone,” Cronenworth said of the San Diego relievers. “They’re pitching great when they come into the game with runners on base. I think that has been the difference-maker for us.”

The Padres will have Blake Snell on the mound for this long awaited moment. Snell struggled in New York last series, saying he was, “pretty frustrated with my release point on the fastball.” He’ll be looking for redemption while the Dodgers counter with Tony Gonsolin, who is coming off a career year in which he posted a 16-1 record and a 2.14 ERA.

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