Check-swing call sums up Padres' frustrating Game 3 loss

October 22nd, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- The Padres were threatening. Trailing by two runs in the ninth, Josh Bell opened the inning with a single and Jurickson Profar had worked a full count against Phillies closer Seranthony Domínguez.

After Profar had fouled off one tough full-count pitch, Domínguez threw a fastball that was closer to Profar’s knees than the inside corner of the plate. Profar started to swing -- then stopped. And he was absolutely certain he’d done so in time.

Home-plate umpire Ted Barrett was less sure. So he asked third-base ump Todd Tichenor for help, and suddenly, the decisive moment in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series rested 120 feet away, in Tichenor’s hands.

Tichenor ruled that Profar went. Profar got heated and was promptly tossed. Citizens Bank Park exulted. And the Padres were on their way to a 4-2 loss on Friday night, dropping them into a 2-1 hole in the NLCS.

In the immediate aftermath, Profar was adamant:

“I didn’t go,” he said. “I didn’t swing.”

But the Padres’ left fielder was also quick to point out that one check-swing wasn’t the reason his team lost, noting simply, “We didn’t hit like we’re supposed to.”

And that about sums it up. The Padres put themselves in a position where they needed to catch a break in the ninth inning. They didn’t.

“We’ve just got to hit better,” Profar said. “We’ll just come back tomorrow, and try to win.”

Starter Joe Musgrove labored, while the offense squandered opportunities, finishing 0-for-7 with men in scoring position. And now, the Padres find themselves where they’ve been so often this season -- with their backs against the wall.

Friday marked the fourth Padres loss of the postseason. After each of the first three, they responded by winning the next game. They desperately need to do so in Game 4 on Saturday, when Mike Clevinger takes the ball. In AL/NL postseason history, only 14 teams (out of 91) have won a series after falling into a 3-1 hole.

“We’ve just got to come in and bring it tomorrow,” said Padres catcher Austin Nola. “Put everything into winning one game. That’s all it is: Win one game.”

The Padres sure had their chances to steal Game 3. But Musgrove was victimized by two-strike hits, unable to find his putaway breaking pitches for much of the night. He allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings.

Jean Segura gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead in the fourth when he reached for a Musgrove slider that was well off the plate, swatting a two-out, two-run single to right-center. The Padres clawed a run back in the fifth and had a chance to tie it in the sixth, when manager Bob Melvin went to his top bench bat, pinch-hitting Bell for Wil Myers with men on the corners and one out.

But Bell bounced into an inning-ending double play. In the bottom half, Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm hit consecutive doubles off Musgrove, making it 4-2, and the Padres wouldn’t get any closer than that.

“Really hard time getting a consistent feel for anything,” Musgrove said. “I feel like I limited the damage really well for how I felt. I had a hard time commanding. It was just, ultimately, a lack of execution.”

The final three frames featured no scoring, but they were quite eventful, nonetheless. The Phillies called for lefty setup man José Alvarado earlier than anticipated, and after his scoreless seventh inning, Juan Soto opened the eighth with a shift-beating single.

That’s when Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson called on closer Domínguez for a six-out save.

“He's been locked in,” Thomson said. “He's pitched in the biggest parts of the game and done a great job. The moment doesn't get to him. Both him and Alvarado have been unbelievable throughout the entire playoffs.”

Perhaps that’s the silver lining for the Padres. They made the Phillies’ two best relievers work hard on the first day of a stretch that could potentially see five games in five days.

Then again, that would’ve made a ninth-inning rally all the more valuable. Had Profar reached via walk, the Padres would’ve had the tying runs aboard with nobody out.

“Go back and look at it, maybe the bat didn't get out there,” Melvin said. “It's a close call, a tough one. … It's a big moment, obviously. That's two out, nobody on.”

And then it wasn’t. Profar flipped his bat and started toward first base, before he noticed the call. He dropped into a crouch in anguish, then flung his helmet and gestured toward Tichenor. When Profar proceeded to kick his helmet toward the dugout, Barrett tossed him, much to the delight of the Philadelphia crowd.

Afterward, Profar acknowledged that his reaction was over the top, but in the heat of the moment, he struggled to control himself.

"We play with emotion,” he said. “We don't play soft. We play to win, and I play with emotion. ... Maybe I could've done better, yes, but it happened.”

From there, Trent Grisham popped out, then Nola struck out to end the game, and the Padres’ backs were right back against the wall.