Padres in position to shock Dodgers after taking 2-1 lead in NLDS | Opinion
SAN DIEGO — It was the year Google was founded, president Bill Clinton was impeached, and the Apple iMac was introduced.
The year was 1998.
It was the last time the people of San Diego watched the Padres win a postseason game in person at home.
It was 8.871 days ago, for those counting.
The Padres treated their raucous sellout crowd to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night at Petco Park. They're threatening to pull one of the greatest postseason upsets in baseball history.
The Padres, with a 2 games to 1 lead, are just one victory away from winning the best-of-five National League Division Series, which could set off the greatest celebration in this city since Steve Garvey’s game-winning homer in Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs.
The Padres also could absolutely ruin the Dodgers’ dream season. L.A. won 111 games during the regular season, but is in danger of collapsing in the first round.
The Padres, who finished 22 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, could become the first team since the 1906 Chicago White Sox to win a postseason series against an opponent who won at least 22 more games in the regular season.
The Padres, who lost 14 of 19 games to the Dodgers during the season, would also be only the fourth team in history to have a winning percentage of .263 or lower against a single opponent and win a postseason series against them.
The last team to accomplish the feat?
The 1988 Dodgers against the New York Mets in the NLCS.
“It’s really cool, especially finally getting to this point,’’ Padres first baseman Wil Myers said. “Obviously had some tough seasons here in San Diego, definitely lost a decent amount of games to the Dodgers, but I think this series can really cap that off to where those other games didn't mean anything.
“If we can come away with this win here, I think that'll put all that to bed. This is a great time for San Diego.’’
This is a Padres team that has been bullied by the Dodgers virtually every year since they came into existence in 1969. The matchup has become so lopsided that Petco Park has become a haven for Dodgers fans looking for better and cheaper seats, with regular-season games consisting of about 60% Padres fans and 40% Dodgers fans.
This night, Padres officials say, it was about 99-1 Padres fans coming through the turnstiles.
One of the reasons, the Padres confide, is that they threatened stripping season tickets away from Padre fans if they scalped their tickets and sold to Dodger fans.
Well, whatever it takes, right?
Who knows, there may be a time when the Padres don’t have to resort to any threats, and they will fill the park just to boo the Dodgers, just as they did Friday.
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The crowd, standing on their feet most of the game, chanting “Beat LA! Beat LA’’ loved every minute, screaming until their lungs burned, their feet hurt, and their heads throbbed.
They led from the first inning through the ninth, watching the Dodgers squander scoring opportunities.
The Dodgers have now gone 19 at-bats this series without a hit with a runner in scoring position, just six shy of their postseason franchise record for ineptitude, set in 1981.
While the Padres have shut down the Dodgers’ top four hitters, the bottom of the Padres’ order has been a beaut this postseason, hitting .345 with three homers, all by No. 8 hitter Trent Grisham.
Grisham, with his homer in the fourth inning, tied a record for the most homers by a No. 8 hitter in postseason history.
The Padres now are hoping the magic continues for one more game against the Dodgers with Joe Musgrove, their hometown hero in the NL wild-card series against the New York Mets, in position to close the door.
It would be the ideal Hollywood ending for a kid who grew up in nearby El Cajon, cheered for his hometown team, and like every other kid in the 619 area code, hated the Dodgers.
Musgrove will never forget that first Dodgers’ game as a kid, back at Qualcomm Stadium, and sitting in the stands during batting practice when Padres third baseman Phil Nevin hit a home run.
“Nevin hits a ball in the cup holder a few rows to my left, and me and this other kid are staring at it from side to side,’’ Musgrove said, “and we're both waiting for someone to make the first move. It was like a mad dash to get to the ball. I think I got to it first. He tried to pull it out of my hand. We ended up getting in this little tussle, and I punched the kid. I think it might have been the first kid I ever punched.
“I punched the kid, and I kind of looked at him like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what did I just do?’ I got booted out by one of the security guards. I think that was my first Dodger game was getting kicked out.’’
And, from that point forward, little Joey Musgrove, who figures he was 12 at the time, learned to hate the Dodgers.
Now, he has the opportunity to make the Dodgers’ lives miserable the entire winter.
“It feels like it's kind of meant to be, right?,’’ Padres manager Bob Melvin says. “I mean, from getting the opening-day assignment this year, the way he pitched, the reception he got coming off the field. It seems like he was the guy when the season started and has even put himself into it more so.
"It's really cool to watch when you have a hometown guy that embraces and is embraced as he is by the city, and his teammates, and everybody in the clubhouse.
“It almost seems like it's kind of meant for him to be for him to pitch one of these games.’’
And, if he happens to win, well, he may never have to buy another drink the rest of his life in San Diego.
The game is just that big for a franchise and community who finally could topple their bitter archrivals.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale