The Padres swept the Dodgers at Petco Park for the first time since September of 2010. For a little perspective: back then Fernando Tatis Jr. was 11 years old and the Marvel Cinematic Universe consisted of just three movies.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
Over the next decade the Padres were nothing more than a mild aggravation to the Dodgers. San Diego went 59-121 against Los Angeles, watching that team from up north win eight straight division titles and a World Series.
Then this week happened. Another sweep. The Friars are 7-3 in 2021 against L.A. So, this is one of those moments that we should savor and celebrate because it’s almost like validation that the San Diego Padres can finally, legitimately match up against the team that’s tormented them for so long.
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Actually, not really. In their clubhouse, the Padres aren’t surprised one little bit.
“We believe we can beat anybody,” says Padres Manager Jayce Tingler in the most matter-of-fact way possible. “We believe, when we’re playing our game, we’ll match up with anyone. So, I think it’s steps forward but like I said earlier, we’re not going to put any caps or limitations on what we’re able to do.”
Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove was a senior at Grossmont High School during that previous home sweep. He knows better than most how lopsided this series has been, and why this means so much to the Friar Faithful now.
“I feel like the rivalry is the best it’s ever been,” says Musgrove, who outdueled reigning Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer on Wednesday night. “It’s a pretty level playing field between the two teams and I feel like we’re starting to show them that they’re not going to walk all over us this year. We’re gonna fight. We’ve got the pieces to do it and it feels good to be part of that.”
It’s not so much that the Padres are beating the Dodgers on the regular. It’s how they’re doing it. For a decade the Dodgers could stroll into Petco Park and beat the Padres on reputation alone. That mental edge they held has all but vaporized.
“They’re a good team and they absolutely kicked out ass from an intensity standpoint,” says Bauer. “They came to play and we didn’t. That’s what happens in baseball. (You’re supposed to) come out and try and attack the other team and try and win and when you don’t have that mindset you get rolled. We got rolled.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had another explanation. He thinks the people in the stands tipped the scales San Diego’s way.
“I know our guys came to play to win every night,” says Roberts. “When you’re at home in front of a packed house and most of the fans are your home fans, they feed off that.”
Typically, the Dodgers would be playing a de-facto home game in the East Village. Their fans took over the place.
This week Petco Park was bathed in brown and the home crowd was rewarded for making it, as they say so often in football, a hostile environment for the other team.
Since the yard opened to full capacity the Padres have gone 7-0. That’s not a coincidence.
Let’s not overlook the fact the Padres have matched, if not exceeded, the Dodgers talent level. The only pitcher on the Padres staff that’s won a World Series game is Musgrove. He did that with Houston in 2017, against the Dodgers. He knows what a successful team makeup looks like and sees it on his hometown club.
“Everyone’s got a different role on the team. Everyone does their job on the field physically but the personalities are really what makes the team gel and makes a team successful. Guys that are high-energy guys and can lead the clubhouse keep the mood light and keep guys laughing and keep things loose … it’s not easy to be the same person when you’re struggling and the team’s doing bad. So, those guys being able to show up every day and be that same person, whether they’re on an oh-for-20 skid or whatever, they realize that they bring more to the table that what they’re doing on the field. They bring energy and an aura about themselves that gets everyone in the right place and brings the most out of everybody.”
Those are guys like Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., and Musgrove himself. General manager A.J. Preller has assembled a group in America’s Finest City that is, for the first time since a prior millennium, a legitimate World Series contender.
What’s not to love?
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