Relentless Padres punch back with 5-run 5th to even NLCS

October 20th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres, when they desperately needed it, came up with yet another five-run rally that shook Petco Park on Wednesday afternoon. Now they're headed to Philadelphia with a split -- and this National League Championship Series is up for grabs again.

San Diego overcame an early four-run deficit to even the series at a game apiece with an 8-5 victory in Game 2. In a wild five-run, 39-minute bottom of the fifth inning, the Padres brought 11 men to the plate and turned a two-run deficit into a three-run lead with one clutch hit after another.

“That’s what makes it a championship-caliber team,” said designated hitter Josh Bell, who went 3-for-4 with a home run. “It’s not just one person we’re relying on. It’s all of us.”

It was the Padres’ second five-run inning in three games -- after they’d earned their place in the NLCS with five runs in the seventh against the Dodgers on Saturday. Those are tied for the most prolific innings in franchise postseason history, and the four-run deficit is tied for the largest the team has overcome in a playoff win.

Trailing, 4-2, in the fifth, the Padres’ rally began, poetically, with Austin Nola’s opposite-field RBI single off his brother, Aaron, cutting the deficit to one.

“I know he won’t give in,” Austin said. “He’s going to come after me and give his best stuff. I’m just up there trying to hit something hard, up the middle, and that’s when good things happen.”

Ha-Seong Kim, who had opened the inning with a single, was on first base at the time. He was running with the pitch, and scored all the way from first base.

A barrage of hits ensued. Jurickson Profar singled. Juan Soto tied the game with a double, chasing Aaron Nola. After Phillies lefty Brad Hand plunked Jake Cronenworth to load the bases, Brandon Drury gave the Padres their first lead of the series with a two-out, two-run single to center, and Bell tacked on another run with a single of his own.

“Kim gets that hit, and it just seems like after that, the at-bats were just that good,” Cronenworth said. “Everybody’s locked in.”

Petco Park, sleepy for the first 4 1/2 innings, exploded with noise -- and the party never really stopped. Manny Machado homered in the seventh, and closer Josh Hader secured the split by striking out the side in the ninth. Hader, by the way, has now struck out each of his last eight hitters.

“I really enjoy those moments more than anything,” Hader said, “because you’ve got to give the people what they want.”

The Padres couldn’t afford to head to Philadelphia trailing two games to none. But with Wednesday’s victory, they suddenly find themselves in a somewhat favorable position. In postseason series with the current 2-3-2 format, teams splitting the first two games in their home ballpark have still gone on to win the series 47 of 85 times (55%).

“We needed this win,” Machado said. “Big time.”

Blake Snell gave them a chance. If it’s possible to be excellent while also allowing four runs across five innings, that was Snell on Wednesday. The Padres left-hander fell victim to some brutal batted-ball luck and shoddy defense during the Phillies’ four-run second inning. Soto lost a fly ball in the sun in right field. Profar misread a fly ball in left. Drury bobbled a potential double-play grounder.

When the dust had settled, San Diego trailed by four runs, but Snell hadn’t pitched particularly poorly. The inning didn’t rattle him in the slightest. Snell put up three consecutive zeros afterwards and finished with six strikeouts, doing his job to set the stage for the comeback.

The Padres’ response was swift. Leading off the bottom of the second inning, Drury shot a laser over the short wall down the left-field line. Bell followed with a towering home run to right on the next pitch, as they became just the fourth pair of Padres teammates with back-to-back homers in the postseason.

“I felt it when J.B. hit the homer,” Drury said. “Obviously to get one run back is huge. And I was happy to get that run back, as well. But when J.B. hit the homer and made it a two-run game just like that, I was like: 'Oh man, we're right back in this.'”

The Padres have mostly viewed Bell and Drury as an either/or proposition at DH this postseason. But, citing the matchup, Padres manager Bob Melvin opted to start both in Game 2, with Drury at first base in place of Wil Myers. That decision paid off in a big way.

Bell and Drury, who entered play with four hits in the team’s first eight postseason games, combined for five on Wednesday. Soto lined the game-tying double. Hader nailed down his fourth postseason save. Not a bad afternoon for the Padres’ contingent of Trade Deadline acquisitions -- all of whom struggled, to varying degrees, upon their arrival.

“There's a lot of expectations thrown at these guys the minute they got over here,” said Melvin. “It's sometimes a little unfair. But here we are. We're still playing. And these guys are coming up big.”