The Padres' backs were against the wall in Game 2 of the NLCS. Then everything shifted.
An ace is dealing, and you're behind, and you hope against hope, but you start counting outs.
You start to worry if your team has gone as far as it can go.
Padres fans wanted this so bad. The cheering, the towel-waving, the horrendous singing, the faith and enthusiasm and hope after so many lost years ... San Diego needed to win Wednesday to keep the NLCS in check.
Philadelphia was already up 1-0 in the series. If your team heads out of town with an 0-2 disadvantage to play three games on the road ... you start doing the math again, counting, hoping, wondering if they'll play another home game this year.
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Things got ugly early for San Diego Wednesday when Philadelphia went station to station in the top of the second, grouping together singles and doubles and building a 4-0 lead.
But the Padres — similarly to their clinching comeback win against 111-win Los Angeles in the Division Series — didn't panic. San Diego cut the deficit in half with home runs by Brandon Drury and Josh Bell, and pitcher Blake Snell buckled down, applying a tourniquet and stopping the bleeding. He wouldn't surrender another run.
Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola, a star in the making, was performing as advertised, setting down San Diego 1-2-3 in the third and fourth innings.
Without 1998, San Diego might not be experiencing 2022
And then came the topsy-turvy, series-shifting bottom of the fifth.
It started with Padres shortstop Ha-seong Kim's leadoff single. After Trent Grisham flied out, catcher, Austin Nola — Aaron's brother — came up to bat. He exuded confidence at the plate. And why not? He knew the pitcher better than anyone. He laced a single to right, leaving his family in an awkward position on who to cheer for.
Kim, running on the pitch, was able to race all the way home to make it 4-3.
Juan Soto, the superstar slugger, was next. The almost-24-year-old somehow underperformed with only a 5.6 WAR this year. But he was due, and his swing was pure. He drove a ball that ping-ponged around in the right field corner to tie the game.
Manny Machado, the perennial MVP candidate who's evolved into a team leader like that other third baseman who won an MVP while playing in San Diego, struck out. Even the greats can't deliver every time...
The rally was enough to chase Nola, which was massive. Ace away. Now the game was in the hands of the bullpen.
Brad Hand came on for Philadelphia. A ball sailed in on the next batter, Jake Cronenworth. Hit by pitch. Bases loaded. And the game
Drury singled to center, plating two runners to give the Padres a 6-4 lead, then Bell followed with a single of his own, driving in another run. By the time Grisham struck out to end the inning, the game and series had shifted.
Machado added a home run, tying Ken Caminiti for the franchise postseason dinger record, and the Friars wound up winning 8-5.
San Diego and Philadelphia are now even at one win each. A brand new series. All because of one topsy-turvy, series-shifting inning.