Padres win 2022 NLDS Game 3

SAN DIEGO — The Padres are one win away from killing that dragon on the freeway — and they probably don’t even need to get back on Interstate 5 to do it.

Petco Park’s first playoff game in front of fans in 16 years brought the goods. Santiago packed the place before the first pitch, the golden towel waving and a screeching noise from the start.

The Padres won 2-1 in Game 3 against the Dodgers on Friday. They now lead the National League Division Series by the same total and could win their first NL Championship Series since 1998 in Game 4 on Saturday night.

“We’re coming tomorrow,” Juan Soto said. “We’re not going to relax because we’re in the lead. We’ve got to get it done. There’s a lot of people in this club who would love to go out and beat those guys.”

“A win,” Padres third baseman Manny Machado said. “But they’re a good club out there. They’ll bring it all tomorrow. We just need to get out there and take care of our business. We’ve got a big game on the mound Joe.”

If Friday night is any indication, they’ll also have a sizable home-court advantage. Attendance was 45,137, the largest ever at Petco Park for the playoffs.

The Padres won two playoff games in the East Village during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But in front of the fans at Peco Park, they never won a playoff game. Those fans were pretty wild on Friday.

“It was probably the best spectator I’ve ever seen,” said Game 3 starter Blake Snell. “Energy has always been electric.”

Snell made his first postseason start against the Dodgers since his infamously quick hook in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. He was sharp most of the time, allowing only one run in 5 1/3 innings. Snell struck out and worked hard in a lot of traffic.

Snell’s night ended when Max Muncy doubled in the sixth inning with a standing ovation as he exited. Unlike the start of Game 6 of the World Series, his bullpen did the job. The San Diego Relief continued its dominance with 3 2/3 scoreless frames and didn’t allow the Dodgers to run for 12 2/3 innings of the series.

“All of these people are incredible,” Soto said. “I think it’s one of the best bullpen I’ve ever seen. … They’re showing it off.

With such a bullpen, the Padres feel very confident when they get an early lead. On Friday night, they jumped straight to the top. Jake Cronenworth’s RBI single gave San Diego a 1-0 advantage in the first inning. Trent Grisham’s single — his third homer to lead in the playoffs — doubled the lead in the fourth. It turned out to be decisive.

Grisham finished the regular season with the lowest batting average of any qualifier and is currently in one of the best playoffs in Padres history. His three home runs are already one point short of Jim Leritz’s franchise playoff record.

“I really felt like I was back,” Grisham said.

Half an inning later, the Dodgers scored their only score on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts. They threatened but didn’t score after that, finishing the night 0-for-9 with the men in scoring position. Petko Park gets crazier with every escape.

The place exploded when Josh Hader blew the fastball past Trayce Thompson at 99 mph to end the game.

“This group is unbelievable,” Machado said. “It’s funny – waited for years.”

Surprisingly, the priests found themselves in control of the NLDS. Teams leading 2-1 go on to win 67 of the 93 series (72 percent) in the best-of-five-inning history of the playoff series. In the current 2-2-1 format of the divisional series, 2-1 teams have advanced 21 of 26 times (81 percent) with a Game 4 at home. Of the 15 games, the series ended in Game 4.

If the Padres can pull it off, they’ll pull off one of the sport’s truly monumental upsets. The Dodgers won 22 more games than the Padres in the regular season. Since the White Sox in 1906, no team has won more games on the standings than they have in a playoff series against a team.

“It’s been a really good regular season, but as we said before, none of that matters,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’re playing a five-game series with a very good ball club that we know well, and the team that plays the best will win the series.

“They’ve been better than us so far.”

It’s the exact opposite of the regular season — in fact, the past decade. The Dodgers have won all six previous series this year. They have led San Diego in the standings every season since 2010. At the trade deadline, the Padres overhauled their roster with this series in mind; they’ll need to get ahead at some point.

That’s when chairman Peter Seidler declared the Dodgers “the dragon on the highway we’re trying to kill.”

Here they sit, and one wins from killing it.

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