Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Postseason Win: San Diego Padres

Sadly, unlike the last entry, this game probably needs at least a bit of introduction.

The defining story of the 1984 season was the Tigers, who started 35-5 and steamrolled the entire American League. Despite that, the NL felt the need to send a team to the World Series as well, and as a result, the NLCS took place as scheduled.

The matchup was a pretty intriguing one - the Cubs won the NL East and were making their first postseason appearances since 1945, and the Padres won the West and were making their first postseason appearance ever. Chicago won the first two games in Wrigley, and the series shifted to San Diego for the final three (if necessary). The Padres took the third game, which brings us to...

1984 NLCS Game 4: Padres 7, Cubs 5. The game featured a fairly typical Game 4 matchup - the Cubs started the mediocre Scott Sanderson, and the Padres sent the slightly-worse Tim Lollar.

Both pitchers kept the opposition scoreless early - Lollar walked Ryne Sandberg in the first, and Terry Kennedy singled against Sanderson in the second, but they were the only runners to reach in those innings. Larry Bowa led off the top of the third with a double, but Sanderson struck out on a foul bunt, and Bob Dernier's grounder got Bowa thrown out at third, defusing the rally. The Padres were thus able to open the scoring in the bottom of the inning, as Garry Templeton singled, stole second, moved to third on an Alan Wiggins single, and came home on a Tony Gwynn sacrifice fly. Steve Garvey followed with a double that drove Wiggins home for a 2-0 lead.

The Cubs responded promptly in the fourth. Gary Matthews drew a leadoff walk, and two outs later, Jody Davis homered to tie the game. Leon Durham followed with a solo shot to give Chicago its first lead of the day. Sanderson worked a 1-2-3 fourth, and the Cubs threatened again in the fifth, as Dernier and Sandberg both drew one-out walks. But Andy Hawkins relieved Lollar and coaxed a double play from Matthews to end the inning, and the Padres rallied in the home half when pinch hitter Tim Flannery singled, advanced to third on a bunt and a groundout, and scored the tying run on a Garvey single.

Dave Dravecky worked around a two-out Davis single in the sixth, and Warren Brusstar circumnavigated a one-out hit from Kevin McReynolds in the bottom of the inning. In the seventh, Dravecky set the Cubs down in order; Tim Stoddard took the mound in the bottom of the inning and... did not match him. Bobby Brown drew a one-out pinch walk and stole second. Wiggins flied out, and Gwynn was intentionally walked, bringing Garvey to the plate. Naturally, Garvey singled Brown home to break the tie and send Gwynn to third, and a passed ball scored the NL batting champ to make it a 5-3 lead.

Goose Gossage relieved in the top of the eighth, and the Cubs wasted little time in coming back. Sandberg led off with a single, stole second, and scored on a hit by Keith Moreland. Henry Cotto ran for Moreland and came around on a two-out double by Davis to tie the game. Durham was intentionally walked, and pinch hitter Richie Hebner flied out to end the inning. Lee Smith was summoned for the home eighth and allowed a two-out single by Carmelo Martinez, then saw Templeton reach on an error before Champ Summers struck out to leave both men on and send the game into the ninth tied at 5.

Dernier's one-out double against Craig Lefferts brought soon-to-be-named NL MVP Sandberg to the plate; he popped up, but an intentional walk and a hit batter loaded the bases before Ron Cey grounded out to leave them that way. In the bottom of the inning, Gwynn singled with one out. That brought up Garvey, who, yes, came through again, this time with a walkoff two-run homer.

RBI double, game-tying RBI single, go-ahead RBI single, tiebreaking walkoff homer. That is a rather remarkable combination of hits - remarkable enough to give Steve Garvey a WPA of +.854 for this game, one of the highest single-game figures in postseason history. It was just enough to overcome a nearly-as-good effort from Jody Davis, who had a game-tying homer and a game-tying double.

It also proved just enough to put the Padres in the World Series, as they would complete their three-game comeback with an error-assisted seventh-inning rally the next day. The Tigers proceeded to steamroll them in five games.

The only other San Diego postseason win of particular note is Game 1 of the 1998 NLCS; the contest went into the eighth tied at 1. The Padres took the lead on a run-scoring ROE from Atlanta arch-nemesis Jim Leyritz, the Braves tied it in the bottom of the ninth on a sac fly, and Ken Caminiti homered in the tenth to decide it. Once again, the Padres would win a close-fought NLCS, and once again, they would be flattened in the Series by a dominant AL club.

Tomorrow, we'll finish off the NL West, as we pick the best postseason win for the LA Dodgers.

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