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A tie atop the leaderboard
Manny Machado and Ken Caminiti have both played MVP-caliber baseball for the Padres. Now they share something else in common.
Manny Machado turned on the pitch and admired his handiwork.
The solo bomb off David Robertson gave the Padres an 8-4 lead in Game 2 of the NLCS. It was a pretty important insurance run. But it also represented a significant team milestone: a tie for most career playoff home runs.
With the blast, Machado and Ken Caminiti share the franchise mark with five.
Here's a look back at Ken's five postseason home runs with the Padres.
1. 1996 NLDS Game 2
Ken's MVP season in 1996 carried the Padres to the division title on the last day of the season.
The Padres faced the Cardinals in the Division Series, and Ken — playing in the playoffs for the first time — was pressing in Game 1, and Game 2 opened in similar fashion.
After a second-inning strikeout, Ken came up again in the fifth inning, leading off against Andy Benes, his former Padres teammate. The Cardinals were leading 1–0, and the Padres still didn’t have a hit.
After two strikes, Ken stepped out of the box and collected himself.
He went back to shortening his swing, a tactic that had worked so well throughout the season. Benes pitched the ball inside and up and Ken was on it, lifting the ball over right fielder Brian Jordan and into the stands.
2 and 3. 1996 NLDS Game 3
Game 3 represented San Diego’s first home playoff game in twelve years.
But as the game wore on, it became a battle of one-upmanship between two players who wouldn’t quit: Caminiti and the Cardinals' Brian Jordan.
Ken hit a home run in the bottom of the third, and the home team built a 4–1 lead.
St. Louis answered, clogging the basepaths with runners and taking a 5–4 lead in the seventh inning.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth inning. Ken led off against Rick Honeycutt. A 42-year-old meatball tosser against the hottest player in the league.
The second pitch was a hanging curve—and Ken knocked it in the air to deep center. Back went outfielder Ray Lankford, but he ran out of room, and the game was tied.
4. 1998 NLCS Game 1
After the Padres topped the Astros to move on to the 1998 NLCS, San Diego faced off against Atlanta, the premiere National League team of the 1990s.
Game 1 was a pitcher's duel between Andy Ashby and John Smoltz, and the game went into extra innings.
In the tenth, Ken came up to bat against Braves rookie pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg with the score knotted at 2–2.
Ligtenberg wasn’t hitting the strike zone to start the at bat—Ken worked the count to 3-and-0, then took one strike to move to 3-and-1.
The pitcher did not want to lose this hitter, so he threw Ken his best pitch, a fastball down.
And Ken answered with his best swing, driving the ball to left-center. Andruw Jones jogged toward the wall, but he ran out of room, and the ball landed about ten rows up. What a time to dial up a moment. . .
“I was seeing the ball good. My timing was back. And I felt good. It was big,” Ken said after his game-winning home run.
5. 1998 NLCS Game 5
Smoltz was back on the mound for Game 5.
In 77 regular season plate appearances, Caminiti hit zero home runs against the hall of fame pitcher. But that was the regular season.
Smoltz delivered a ball off the plate, and Ken drove the pitch to the opposite field ... The ball kept climbing ... Ryan Klesko raced to the wall and jumped ... but it was out of his reach, creeping over the wall and landing amid the palm trees for a two-run home run.
The fans were electric, and Ken pumped his fist to the crowd, a moment of pure joy.