San Diego Padres outfielder Trent Grisham is going through the redemption arc of his career.
A career that started with a stinging defensive gaffe that doomed the Milwaukee Brewers and made way for the Washington Nationals’ championship run in 2019. An error that was followed by a trade to San Diego during the offseason and was paid off with an icy bat in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, another team en route to a championship run of their own.
Entering the postseason as a wild card, Grisham appeared to be the weakest link of the Padres’ lineup. Despite hitting a career high 17 home runs, he was also batting .184 with a .625 OPS in 451 at-bats this season. He was batting .068 (3-for-44) through September during the most crucial time in the playoff chase.
However, everything changed when the postseason lights started shining.
Grisham has been one of the most dependable bats in the Padres lineup all postseason. He has hits in six-of-seven games so far and has driven in a run in all but two of those games. Opposing pitchers have found it to be virtually impossible to keep him away from first base.
Grisham is not just leading the Padres in home runs but all of baseball this postseason, all while batting a scorching .381 with an enormous .810 slugging percentage. He is the fourth Padre to hit 3+ home runs in a playoff run. He will have at least four games in the NLCS to catch Jim Leyritz’s team-record four playoff homers in 1998, San Diego’s most recent world series appearance.
It’s not just how many home runs Grisham has hit but against whom. He has taken Cy Young Award winners Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer deep during the NL Wild Card Series and off Andrew Heaney in the NLDS.
“I’ve been waiting for it all year,” Grisham said. “It’s crazy that it’s come at such a meaningful time.”
A long-time coming
It has been 16 years since the Padres last hosted a playoff game. It’s been so long that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was their leadoff batter. By finally getting over the Dodgers, who have had their number all season long, the The Padres have made it to the National League Championship series for the third time in team history. The previous two appearances coincided with San Diego going to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.
This is what the Padres had in mind when they invested heavily in Manny Machado, traded for Juan Soto and Josh Hader and made San Diego native Joe Musgrove the anchor of the starting rotation.
“This is what the city’s been waiting for for a long time,” Manny Machado said.
“I used to be that fan that was waiting,” Musgrove said.
A raging bullpen
Hader, who spent much of the regular season as the closer of a Milwaukee Brewers team that was on top of the NL Central prior to the trade deadline, said he sensed “a contagious atmosphere” that the Padres was hungry for not merely a playoff appearance but the World Series title.
“I knew what we had coming over here,” said Hader. “I knew this team was stacked. This team was full of studs. It’s just taken the time to get hot at the right time and that’s what we’re doing.”
Underrated in the battle of arms between the Padres and Dodgers starting pitchers was the elusive heat generated by the San Diego bullpen, a unit that did not give up a single run throughout the entire series.
“Because we’re a bunch of (expletive) dogs,” Tim Hill said. “That’s it. A bunch of (expletive) dogs, bro. Just a bunch of (expletive) dogs with big (nerves).”
This is the attitude of a champion. Whether or not the Padres earn the crown is a question to be answered this week.