Padres believe they 'can beat anyone' – even the Dodgers – and why not? | Opinion

LOS ANGELES — There was no spraying of champagne Wednesday night, nor dousing of beers, with only a few cold ones quietly passed around for consumption.

There was no blaring music. No dancing. No screaming. No real emotion, really.

The San Diego Padres instead basked in the most beautiful sound they’ve heard all season.

The sweet sound of silence.

All they heard was the shuffling of feet from the sellout crowd of 52,407, and anxiety and fear filling the night.

The Padres, beaten up by their big brothers up north ever since they set foot in the National League, mocked and scorned for saying they could even compete with the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, suddenly are the ones now kicking the sand in their face.

The Padres knocked off the Dodgers, 5-3, evening the National League Division Series at one game apiece, and are now threatening to ruin the Dodgers’ dream season.

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They toppled the 101-win New York Mets at Citi Field in New York last weekend in the wild-card series.

Now, they are trying to shock the Dodgers, whose 111 victories were the second-most by a National League team in history.

"The New York series gave us confidence that we can beat anybody," Padres All-Star right fielder Juan Soto said. "It shows what we can do. We all know we have a great team and can do a lot of damage.

"We beat them, we believe we can beat anyone else now."

Yes, even the Dodgers.

"Playing in New York wasn’t easy," Padres outfielder Jurickson Profar said. "The Mets had a great team too. It helped us, it helped us a lot."

San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth (9) is greeted by left fielder Jurickson Profar (10) after hitting a home run in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game 2 of the NLDS.

The Padres may have lost 24 of their last 29 games against the Dodgers, going 4-15 against them in the regular season, but they finally are back even, packing a whole lot of momentum on their team bus back home.

The Padres, for the first time since 2006, will be playing postseason games Friday and Saturday in front of their hometown fans.

Their only other playoff series in the past 16 years was the 2020 Covid-19 season, when they played in front of cardboard cut-outs at Petco Park. They beat the St. Louis Cardinals, and headed to Arlington, Texas, to play the Dodgers in the bubble.

Where, of course, they were swept in three games.

"This is a new team," Padres DH Josh Bell says. "We have all kinds of new guys here that never went through that. We know there’s a past, but we weren’t part of it.

"The faces in this clubhouse are little different than the faces the Dodgers are used to seeing.

"New faces. New guys. New team.

"We’re making a name for ourselves."

And creating an identity for all of San Diego to cherish.

This is a team that is getting clutch hitting, solid defense, surreal relief pitching (9 1/3 shutout innings by six relievers), and are set up perfectly the next two games.

They have former Cy Young winner Blake Snell in Game 3. They have wild-card division series hero Joe Musgrove – the same guy who pitched seven one-hit innings against the Mets – in Game 4.

"We know what we’re getting into," Musgrove says. "It’s a really good team over there. Obviously, the best team in baseball this year, 111 wins. But it comes down to a series of five games, so we don’t have to beat them over the course of 162. We just got to beat them three games."

Musgrove was just 13 years old growing up in El Cajon, California, when the Padres last played in a postseason home game in a full season. He doesn’t remember what he was doing, or where he was during the games, but he sure knows where he’ll be if they pull off the upset.

"San Diego is going to be a wild atmosphere," Musgrove says. "It’s going to be crazy. Absolutely crazy. If we clinch it down there, we’ve got to (go to) the Gaslamp (Quarter), and celebrate with the fans. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I’m sure we’ll make it.

"Can you imagine that party?"

It could be the wildest celebration in San Diego since Steve Garvey’s walk-off home run against Chicago Cubs closer Lee Smith in Game 4 of the 1984 National League Championship Series.

It still is considered the greatest moment in San Diego sports history, propelling the Padres to the World Series a day later.

That could abruptly change by the end of the weekend.

"They’ve been waiting for this for a while," Padres manager Bob Melvin said. "They incentivize us. We feel like they’re part of us. To be able to reward them, get home, and have some playoff games for them, feels really nice."

The Padres believe, and why not?

This is a team carried by All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, who was subjected to vicious boos, taunts and curses every time he stepped to the plate, only to deliver a home run, a run-scoring double, and make two dazzling defensive plays.

"Any time you come to Dodger Stadium," Machado said, "you know the fans are going to be on you. Any time you go to any stadium, the fans are going to be on you. That's the beauty of postseason baseball. That's why you want home field advantage.

"Coming here, taking one from them at their place, and going back home now 1-1, being able to maybe even win it at home, will be fun in front of our fans that deserve it."

Oh, baby, can you imagine?

"I’m pumped, I’m pumped to see the atmosphere," Bell said, "I know we’re pumped in the clubhouse. I’m pumped to experience it. I can’t wait. None of us can. I know there will be a lot of loud noises. A lot of chants. I can’t wait for this weekend."

This isn’t just a baseball series.

This is a cultural war San Diego is trying to win.

It’s a city that despises everything about Los Angeles. The Hollywood lifestyle. The traffic. The smog. The arrogance. Rodeo Drive. Beverly Hills.

And, of course, the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have been the gold standard in the division for the past decade, winning nine division titles, 10 consecutive playoff appearances, three pennants and the 2020 World Series title.

The Padres, on the other hand, have reached the postseason only six times since their inception in 1969, winning two pennants, and are still seeking their first World Series championship.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day," Machado says, "we know that they're the division champs. They own the best record in baseball. They've played very well against us all year.

"But we're going to go out there and compete. We're going to go out there and leave it on the field. We're going to try to do everything possible to help our team win every single day."

They do that throughout the weekend, and look out, with San Diego having a party that will make Las Vegas look like a church social.

"They’ve been waiting for this for a long time," said Jake Cronenworth, who homered and drove in two runs. "So have we. We’re ready."

The moment is there for the taking.

"We want to be on the biggest stage," Soto said, "beating the best team. Let everybody see what wegot."

Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.