SAN DIEGO — The Padres converged from all directions and noticed the identical thing when postseason baseball returned here this weekend with fans within the ballpark for the primary time since 2006.
On his drive to Petco Park for Game 3 of this division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, San Diego first baseman Wil Myers said he could feel the energy.
“I saw a bunch of Padres fans, and I didn’t see any Dodger blue,” said Myers, who, because the longest-tenured player on this San Diego team, has endured loads of evenings through which Dodgers denizens driving south far outnumbered Padres partisans within the seats.
Second baseman Jake Cronenworth, who lives downtown, heard greater than his usual share of “Go Padres!” calls from fans as he zipped along on his scooter through the energetic Gaslamp Quarter en path to the sphere. And third baseman Manny Machado was given a heads up during a haircut on Thursday’s off day.
“My barber Ramon let me know, ‘Hey, town’s form of going crazy’,” Machado said, adding: “Town’s been waiting a protracted time for this.”
By the point the Padres edged the Dodgers, 2-1, Friday night to position themselves for certainly one of the largest October surprises in history, a city with no championship in any of the 4 major North American skilled men’s sports was dreaming greater than ever.
Friday’s sellout crowd of 45,137 was boisterous from the beginning and, because of Cronenworth’s run-scoring single in the primary, Trent Grisham’s solo homer within the fourth and what has turn out to be the team’s customary lockdown pitching on this postseason, the party threatened to rage into next week.
Chants of “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!” thundered across the ballpark as closer Josh Hader galloped through a 1-2-3 ninth inning, bouncing around as if by laser pointer. The Padres haven’t played in a League Championship Series since 1998 and now had two probabilities to win only one game to return again.
Joe Musgrove, who grew up in San Diego and fired the one no-hitter in Padres’ history, was set to start out a possible clincher at home on Saturday night. And if something went unsuitable there, a do-over awaited the Padres with Game 5 on Sunday in Los Angeles. Insurance rarely felt so good.
The mighty Dodgers suddenly needed a Houdini-like escape. After setting a franchise record with 111 wins this season, they found themselves dangerously near landing in history next to the 116-win Seattle Mariners team that was bounced within the 2001 A.L.C.S. by the Yankees.
The Padres wanted nothing more the last several weeks of the season than to earn a playoff spot and ensure some home games. Certainly one of the things Manager Bob Melvin said upon taking the job last November was that he vividly recalled bringing his Oakland A’s to Petco Park midway through the 2021 season and being wholly impressed with a Tuesday night crowd of 40,000.
This 12 months, with the payroll ratcheted as much as fifth within the majors at a club-record $237 million, the Padres drew crowds to match: Their attendance also ranked fifth in M.L.B. with a median of 36,931 fans per game.
The Padres viewed Friday and Saturday nights — and, they hope, many more evenings this October — as a way not only to thank the fans, but to incorporate them of their long-awaited autumnal celebration.
The fans didn’t disappoint, and so they didn’t resell their tickets to Dodgers fans. The swirl of colours and noise was so chaotic that the players couldn’t even ensure what colours they saw.
“This was all Padre fans on the market,” Machado said, admiringly. “It was all yellow. It was awesome to see.”
Gone were the standard chants of, “Let’s Go Dodgers!” Few were the Dodgers caps and jerseys.
“In the course of the season, you see plenty of blue at Petco Park,” Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar said. “But tonight, it was all gold. I adore it.”
Yellow, gold, whatever. Some details could have been debatable, but the massive picture couldn’t have been more clear.
“That they had a giant say in what went on today, too,” Melvin said of the emotional lift the gang provided. “It felt just like the last couple innings there was a lot momentum within the place that it was hard to not get it done.”
Melvin identified that relievers Luis García, Robert Suarez and Hader each threw fastballs that were clocked in triple digits and “you don’t see 100 miles an hour often, especially out of three guys in a row. So I’m sure it had a giant say in it.” Machado called it the most effective two crowds he’s ever experienced, alongside the Miami atmosphere within the World Baseball Classic.
The last word nightmare for Roberts, in fact, could be if his team was eliminated by the Padres. Then, not only would arguably the perfect Dodgers club in history have been sent home early, however the manager, who lives in northern San Diego County, could be at home surrounded by Padres fans and October buzz.
In one other of baseball’s infinite and unique twists, the last time before Friday that the Padres hosted a playoff game with fans in attendance was on Oct. 5, 2006, against St. Louis — and the San Diego leadoff hitter that day was Dave Roberts. Also within the lineup, catching, was Josh Bard, who currently serves because the Dodgers’ bullpen coach.
Roberts said he was reminded of that Friday via a text from his son. “It was crazy going back into that time frame,” he said.
As Musgrove prepared for the beginning through which he hoped to shut out the Dodgers, he, too, has loads of memories as a child growing up in San Diego, attending games in old Qualcomm Stadium and, eventually, idolizing Jake Peavy, who won a Cy Young Award with the Padres.
Musgrove remembered going early with a friend in the future to look at batting practice on the old stadium when Phil Nevin, now managing the Los Angeles Angels, hit a pitch into the seats. Musgrove said he and one other kid stared at one another briefly before racing to retrieve the souvenir.
“We ended up getting in slightly tussle, and I punched the child,” Musgrove said. “I feel it may need been the primary kid I ever punched.”
Musgrove said he just type of checked out his nemesis afterward “like, oh, my gosh, what did I just do? I got booted out by certainly one of the safety guards. I feel that was my first Dodger game, getting kicked out.”
Happily, he said, he was capable of re-enter along with his parents, who were still within the parking zone and hadn’t yet entered the stadium.
“Nobody had parents around, either,” Musgrove said, chuckling on the memory. “So it was just two kids fighting within the outfield.”
His passion runs just as thick today, though much to the chagrin of the hitters going up against him and far to the delight of his hometown team, this month he’s channeling it in a vastly different way.