SAN DIEGO — Jake Cronenworth hit a tiebreaking, two-run single with two outs in the seventh inning and the San Diego Padres rallied past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 Saturday night to advance to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 1998.
The Padres stunned the 111-win Dodgers with a five-run seventh to win the best-of-five NL Division Series 3-1 in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 45,139 at Petco Park.
“It’s about to be a party out here tonight,” said starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, who grew up a Padres fan in the San Diego suburbs.
“I mean, since I was a little kid we’ve been getting beat up by the Dodgers. But when it comes down to it and the games matter, this team stepped up, from top to bottom.”
San Diego will host the Philadelphia Phillies in Games 1 and 2 of an all-wild card NLCS on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Phillies beat the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves 8-3 earlier in the day to win their NLDS in four games.
The crowd roared when Josh Hader, obtained from Milwaukee on Aug. 1, struck out Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman in succession to end the Padres’ third straight win against the Dodgers. Padres players celebrated wildly on the infield and fireworks went off above the downtown ballpark. Manny Machado and Juan Soto exhorted the fans for more as they all reveled in the middle of a rare San Diego rainstorm.
The Padres last reached the NLCS 24 years ago when they beat Atlanta in six games and were then swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series. A handful of players from that team watched from a luxury suite, including Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman and center fielder Steve Finley.
It was a soul-crushing ending for the Dodgers after the best regular-season record in club history and manager Dave Roberts’ prediction during spring training that they’d win the World Series.
“Shock factor, very high. Disappointment, very high. It’s crushing,” Roberts said. “Each guy gave everything they had all year long, and a tremendous season. The great thing about baseball is the unpredictability, and the tough thing about it is the same thing.
“Nothing I can say is going to make it feel any better. Obviously we didn’t expect to be in this position,” he added.
The Padres closed as a +190 underdog at Caesars Sportsbook to win the series; it’s the second-biggest betting upset in a playoff series over the last ten seasons. (The Washington Nationals were +195 to beat the Houston Astros in the 2019 World Series.)
The game was delayed 31 minutes at the start by showers, which returned in the eighth inning and prompted a short delay while the grounds crew worked on the mound.
After left-hander Tyler Anderson stymied the Padres through five scoreless innings, San Diego broke through against the Dodgers’ bullpen in the seventh.
Jurickson Profar drew a leadoff walk against Tommy Kahnle, took third on Trent Grisham’s single and scored when Austin Nola’s infield single glanced off Freeman’s glove at first base. Yency Almonte, who took the loss, came on and was greeted by Kim Ha-seong’s RBI double inside the third base line, followed by Soto’s tying single to right.
With two outs and the crowd on its feet, Cronenworth singled to center off local product Alex Vesia to give the Padres the lead, raising his arms in celebration as he rounded first and then punching the air with his right fist as he pulled into second base on the throw home. Soto, acquired from Washington in a blockbuster trade Aug. 2, slid home headfirst and jumped up and cheered.
“It took a team effort to beat a really good team and we did that tonight,” Machado said.
After the first rain delay, fans were amped up in anticipation of Musgrove pitching his hometown Padres into the NL Championship Series. The big right-hander from suburban El Cajon, a first-time All-Star in 2022, was the first Padres pitcher from San Diego to make a postseason start in his hometown.
But Anderson outpitched Musgrove, holding the Padres to two hits through five innings.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the third. Betts walked with one out and Turner scorched a grounder past third baseman Machado, who has carried the Padres much of the season, to move Betts to third. Freeman, who helped the Braves win the World Series last year before signing with the Dodgers as a free agent, doubled down the right field line to bring them both in.
The Dodgers will be left with an empty feeling. They won the NL West for the ninth time in 10 seasons and finished 22 games ahead of San Diego.
Los Angeles went 14-5 against the Padres in the regular season and won all six of the series matchups during the regular season. It’s the first time a team lost a playoff series to a divisional opponent after not losing a series to that team during the regular season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“These guys dominated us all year long, but we got hot at the right time. And you see the unity in this group, this fan base — we wanted to give it to these people so bad,” Musgrove said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Musgrove was trying for his second straight playoff series-clinching win. On Sunday night, he dominated the New York Mets at Citi Field, allowing just one hit and one walk in seven innings in a 6-0 win that sent the Padres to the NLDS.
He gave up two runs and six hits in six innings against the Dodgers, struck out eight and walked three.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.