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Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell and Josh Bell look on as the Phillies celebrate their series win over the Padres. Photo credit: Screen shot, FS1

The Padres postseason run ended Sunday with just one win in the National League Championship Series as the Phillies prevailed in three straight at home to clinch the pennant.

The Friars’ bats could not keep up with the likes of Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, who both hit .400 in the series, but it was the reigning MVP who broke their hearts in Game 5. Harper, who was named MVP of the best-of-seven series, hit an eighth-inning two-run home run, erasing the Padres’ 3-2 lead to take his Phillies to the World Series.

The Padres, though, will go home as Manny Machado hit an unspectacular .238, and the team’s hot hands against the Mets and the Dodgers went cold in the NLCS, notably Trent Grisham, who failed to get a hit in the five games against the Phillies.

With the win, the Phillies – at 87 wins, they own the worst record of the six NL playoff teams – will move on to the World Series to face the winner of the American League pennant, most likely the Houston Astros. The Astros, with 106 victories in the regular season, have the Yankees on the ropes, with a 3-0 lead ahead of their Sunday evening contest.

So the Padres can look back and count prematurely ending the New York Mets’ and Los Angeles Dodgers’ seasons as their most notable accomplishments in 2022 and shocking the baseball world by eliminating L.A., which had the best record in baseball on the year.

In the end, Machado credited the Phillies, who also dispatched a 100-win team, the Atlanta Braves, to make the NLCS.

“They were hot. We were hot as well, but they just played better. They played better baseball,” he said of the 4-1 series loss.

The end shouldn’t overshadow the Padres’ path to the NLCS. Machado had another campaign in which he is contending for the NL MVP award and Yu Darvish anchored the pitching staff, while Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell each had protracted hot streaks. Though they didn’t at times perform as expected, Juan Soto and Josh Hader became contributors after the huge August trades that brought them to the Padres.

And the team did it all without Fernando Tatis Jr., absent first due to injury and then because of his 80-game PED suspension, which carries into 2023.

But the team did what it was supposed to under first-year manager Bob Melvin – make a true playoff run, reaching the NLCS for the first time since 1998, even if the journey fell short of the World Series.

“We did hell of a job all year. We overcome a lot of things,” Machado said. “People didn’t expect us to be here and here we were.”

The reason that happened, for Joe Musgrove, a Padre fan as a boy in East County? Melvin. He called it an honor “to play for Bob,” saying the “leadership qualities, the calmness, the wisdom, all things that he brings to the table, kind of (have) rubbed off on us as a group.”

But Game 5, like the series opener, came down to the starters, and like Game 1, the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler out-pitched Darvish, even if ever so slightly.

Darvish gave up a third-inning homer to the pesky Rhys Hoskins, but Soto cut the lead in half the next inning with a solo shot to center. 

Yet that was the first hit off Wheeler, and Darvish, though his command was shaky, settled down. By the seventh, when Wheeler gave way to Seranthony Dominguez, each starter had given up just three hits. 

The difference? Darvish walked three, one of whom came around to score. But the difference for Dominguez? The rain, which continued throughout the game, sometimes pouring down, as it did in the seventh.

Dominguez replaced Wheeler when the right hander gave up a single to Jake Cronenworth, but the reliever threw a wild pitch to send the second baseman to second and Josh Bell made him pay with a double to tie the game.

Jose Azocar ran for Bell and with Grisham at the plate moved to third on the second wild pitch of the inning. Then he scored as yet another squirted away, giving the Padres their first lead of the game, 3-2.

It only lasted until the eighth, when J.T. Realmuto led off the inning with a single to left off the dependable Robert Suarez, entering his second inning of work in a strong postseason.

“We had a lot of confidence in Suarez,” manager Bob Melvin said, explaining the decision to stay with him, rather than turning to closer Hader for six outs.

Harper, though, came up, and as one of the game’s foremost stars, did what stars do. On a 2-2 count, he took Suarez deep to left and Jurickson Profar could only watch the ball sail into the stands.

The Padres attempted a rally in the ninth, but with two on and two out, Austin Nola sent a harmless fly ball to short right and Nick Castellanos easily snagged it to end the Padres’ 2022 pennant hopes.

Machado now wants his teammates to remember that they are “capable of doing special things” and “come back next year hungrier.”

“If we can do that a ball club, come in next year and fight from he get go, you know, we’re going to be dangerous,” he said.



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Ellen Bullock