After 14 long years, the San Diego Padres are back in the playoffs, this time with a cast of stars who never flinch when they get down.
The Padres beat the Seattle Mariners, 7-4, Sunday with a three-run rally in the 11th inning that included a go-ahead double by newcomer Mitch Moreland.
In one of many bizarre twists to 2020, the clincher came in the finale of a series that was moved from Seattle because of poor air quality due to wildfires, so the Mariners were considered the home team and batted last.
After closer Trevor Rosenthal (1-0), another newcomer, struck out Phillip Ervin for the final out, the Padres had a brief but joyous celebration in the infield. Then they gathered near the dugouts to get playoff caps and T-shirts before moving to the clubhouse.
Budding superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who is warming back up after struggling for several games, said the moment was huge for the team and the city.
“I just feel so happy for the city of San Diego,” said Tatis, 21, the son of the former big leaguer. “I know it’s been so many years since they went to the playoffs and bringing playoff baseball back to San Diego, I just get emotional.”
As for the players, “Oh man, just happiness,” said Tatis, who along with teammate Manny Machado is a contender for NL MVP. “It’s been a quick but hard year. Everybody has struggled, everybody has put their good work and now we have each other’s back and we find a way to win games.”
Although Petco Park was devoid of spectators, a handful of fans watched from a rooftop bar just beyond left-center field and several others watched from balconies on an office building high above right field.
The loss by Seattle also locked up an American League playoff berth for the New York Yankees.
Each team scored in the 10th inning and the Padres started the 11th with Machado on second base. Moreland, obtained in a trade with the Red Sox on Aug. 30, lifted an opposite-field fly down the left-field line off Casey Sadler (1-1) and it dropped just in front of Tim Lopes. Machado, who held up halfway to third, hustled around and scored for a 5-4 lead.
The Padres, who made six trades right before the Aug. 31 deadline to add to the core built by general manager A.J. Preller, added on with Jurickson Profar’s RBI single and an error by second baseman Dylan Moore.
The Padres last reached the playoffs in 2006, when they won the NL West for the second straight season and were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals for the second consecutive year.
It’s been so long since the Padres played in the postseason that two members of that team, closer Trevor Hoffman and catcher Mike Piazza, are in the Hall of Fame. One of the outfielders, Dave Roberts, is in his fifth season managing the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Padres are 0-3 in the postseason at Petco Park, where they’ll host a wild-card series. They haven’t won a playoff series since beating Atlanta in the 1998 NLCS before being swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Rockies deny Dodgers' bid to clinch
If everything broke just right, the Los Angeles Dodgers were planning a subdued celebration on the plane ride home.
It didn’t. The party’s on hold.
Antonio Senzatela pitched efficiently into the seventh inning as the Colorado Rockies avoided a Los Angeles sweep with a 6-3 win Sunday in Denver and delayed the Dodgers from clinching their eighth straight NL West title.
The Dodgers could’ve wrapped up the division with a victory and a loss by San Diego. They took three of four this weekend from a struggling Rockies team that played its final series at Coors Field this season.
“I don’t think anyone in the clubhouse takes that for granted,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the division-title streak. “That’s our goal from the outset.”
Senzatela (5-2) carried over his command from his last start when he turned in his first career complete game. He allowed one run over 6⅓ innings to help contain a potent Dodgers lineup, even with Mookie Betts getting the afternoon off.
“He’s pitching with a lot of confidence and a lot of conviction in his stuff,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, whose team had 10 hits — all singles. “I thought he pitched outstanding.”
Leading big in the eighth, Daniel Bard struck out Cody Bellinger with the bases loaded to end the threat. Bard returned in the ninth and gave up a two-out, two-run single to AJ Pollock that made it 6-3.
After walking Corey Seager, Bard was replaced by Mychal Givens, who got Chris Taylor to ground out for his first save of the season.
It was a rare game when the Dodgers didn’t leave the yard. They’ve hit a homer in 43 of 54 contests this season.
Josh Fuentes powered the offense by driving in three runs. He had a two-run single in the fourth and another RBI single in the sixth as part of a three-run inning that made it 5-0.
“It’s awesome to play every day and it’s awesome to help the team win,” said Fuentes, who’s hitting .348.
Tony Gonsolin (1-2) struck out a career-best 10 for the Dodgers, including the first six he faced, over five innings. He gave up three hits — all singles in the fourth.
Means, Orioles edge Rays
John Means struck out a career-high 12 in a pitching duel with Tampa Bay lefty Ryan Yarbrough, and the Orioles stalled the Rays' push toward the division title with a 2-1 victory in Baltimore.
Yarbrough (1-4) gave up two runs and five hits with eight strikeouts over seven-plus innings. That wasn't enough to offset Tampa Bay's 16 strikeouts, or their four measly hits against four Baltimore pitchers.
“Yarbs was outstanding," manager Kevin Cash said. “That’s the frustration. Not that we didn’t hit."
If Yarbrough can pitch that well in a rotation that includes Blake Snell, Tyler Glasgow and Charlie Morton, the Rays might be very tough to beat in the postseason.
“We're going to go as they're going to go," Cash said. “When their talent comes out, we're pretty special."
Means (2-3) allowed three hits and a run in 5⅔ innings. The lefthander tied a team record with seven consecutive strikeouts, matching the mark set by Sammy Stewart in 1978.
The 12 strikeouts were five more than his previous career high.
“I didn’t know it was that many. I knew that I was getting some swings and misses," he said. “I just had the fastball going today. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t."
Rays catcher Mike Zunino (left oblique strain) came off the injured list and got his first start since Aug. 25. Orioles shortstop José Iglesias got the day off after being struck in the left wrist with a fastball thrown by Glasgow on Saturday night. X-rays were negative, but Iglesias was “really sore," according to manager Brandon Hyde.
Phils' Harper hurt in loss
Phillies slugger Bryce Harper exited with lower back stiffness after he struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in Philadelphia. Harper has 11 homers and 28 RBIs for the Phillies, who are trying to hang on over the final week and secure their first playoff berth since 2011. The Blue Jays (27-26) held onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the American League. They return home to Sahlen Field in Buffalo for the final seven games to try and earn a trip to the postseason ... Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam, Chadwick Tromp and Darin Ruf added two-run homers, and the San Francisco Giants prevented the Athletics from clinching the AL West title at home with a 14-2 victory in Oakland. The Giants earned their first win in six tries during this year’s Bay Bridge Series and go into the season’s final week chasing a playoff spot ... A’s righthander Daniel Mengden was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28. He has been asymptomatic throughout and resumed throwing off a mound at the club’s San Jose alternate site in recent days ... The Mets sent INF Victor Gonzalez to Baltimore to complete a trade for reliever Miguel Castro, who was acquired Aug. 31. They also sent righthander Steven Villines to Texas to complete a deal for righthander Ariel Jurado, who was acquired Aug. 29 ... The Pirates traded three minor league pitchers as part of separate transactions, including shipping righthander Joel Cesar to the Phillies to complete the Aug. 26 deal for lefthander Austin Davis. Lefthander Domingo Robles was traded to the Cardinals and righthander Connor Loeprich was sent to the Orioles. The Pirates received international bonus pool money in those trades ... Pirates infielder Kevin Newman is out for the remainder of the season because of a contusion to the peroneal nerve of his right knee ... The Brewers placed outfielder Ben Gamel on 10-day injured list with a left quadriceps injury.