Our Padres went from first, to worst, and back to first in three short, yet eventful years. Fortunately for the Friar Faithful, the 1998 Padres had a different agenda than the 1996 Padres, making a name for San Diego in Major League Baseball's most incredible season ever by reaching the World Series
RHP Kevin Brown (18-7) vs. LHP Randy Johnson(10-1)
Padres 2, Astros 1
Day one of the postseason adventure seemed daunting. Not only were they playing the hottest team in the National League (the Astros had won 28 of their last 39 games), but the Padres had to face the "Big Unit" in the Astrodome for the first game. Though Randy Johnson was getting a huge majority of the pre game hype, Kevin Brown was more dominating this day. Brownie was clearly not afraid of Houston as he struck out 16 Astros in eight innings, allowing just two hits. Those 16 strikeouts are the second most in playoff history--second only to St. Louis Cardinal great Bob Gibson, who struck out 17 against Detroit in the 1968 World Series. This 2-1 nail biter proved to be the norm rather than the exception, as three of the four games in the Division series were decided by one run.
RHP Andy Ashby (17-9) vs. LHP Shane Reynolds (19-8)
Astros 5, Padres 4
Day Two was the biggest roller-coaster of them all. In the top of the ninth, down by two, with a full count, two outs, and Ken Caminiti on first, Jim Leyritz swung at one of Billy Wagner's 98 mph fastballs, and sent it over the right field fence, tying the game at four. Yep, it is a game of inches. The ball was inches to the left of the foul pole and barely cleared the fence. Regardless of how close, it counted, and it had Padres fans all over the world jumping up and down. We didn't jump for long, however, as the 'Stros bounced back, scoring off star reliever Trevor Hoffman to win the game, 5-4. Trevor was put in a difficult position, coming into a tie game, mid-inning. Coming back to San Diego up by two games over the Astros would have been nice, but splitting was good enough. True Padres fans may have even liked it, since it gave them an extra Postseason game to watch at the Q.
RHP Kevin Brown(18-7) vs. LHP Mike Hampton (11-7)
Padres 2, Astros 1
The fans in San Diego were everything the Padres could ask for, and more. Screaming from the moment the pre game show started, the fans were rocking! The Padres felt that energy and responded. Houston's Mike Hampton took a no-hitter into the fifth, but in the sixth Tony Gwynn came through knocking in Chris Gomez. The Astros fought back and scored in the top of the seventh. Enter October's secret weapon. In the bottom of the seventh, Jim Leyritz, "The King" came up with one out and hit his fifth career post season home run, 402 feet into the left field seats, giving the Padres the lead, 2-1. That one run was enough for Trevor, who entered in the ninth to the delight of 65,235 screaming fans, and struck out the side. Another fantastic game, leaving the Pads one victory from the National League Championship Series.
LHP Sterling Hitchcock (9-7) vs. LHP Randy Johnson (10-1; 0-1)
Padres 6, Astros 1
This was the typical on-the-edge-of-your-seat game that Padres fans had become accustomed tothat is up until the eighth inning. In the eight, pinch hitter John Vander Wal clubbed a triple, and Wally Joyner stroked a home run that gently sailed over the right field fence. It didn't even look like he swung very hard. (Perhaps that is the secret.) Sterling Hitchcock helped his team by striking out 11 in six innings. From top to bottom, our Pads played great, beating the Astros 6-1. Cynics doubted the Friars would be able to beat Randy Johnson twice in a five game series, and they didn't. They beat him twice in a four game series! This loss was his fifth straight in the postseason, tying a major league record.
RHP Andy Ashby (17-9; 0-0 ) vs. RHP John Smoltz (17-3; 1-0)
Padres 3, Braves 2
Again, cynics doubted the San Diego lads, as they had to go to Atlanta, and hit against the most storied pitching staff in the decade. You gotta Keep the Faith! This game was as dramatic as the Houston games had been, with Cammy hitting the game-winning home run in the 10th, to make a winner out of Hoffman, who had failed to convert the save for only the second time all season. The Padres won this very important first game of the series 3-2, much to the surprise of the Braves, not to mention most anyone east of Interstate 15. Yes, the Friar Faithful knew Cammy was due, and he came up huge.
RHP Kevin Brown (18-7; 1-0) vs. LHP Tom Glavine (20-6; 1-0)
Padres 3, Braves 0
As surprised as everyone was that San Diego won that first game in The Ted, they were dumbfounded when the Padres took the second, making Atlanta travel to San Diego down 0-2 in this seven-game series. Kevin Brown was the man this day, striking out 11, getting a base hit, sliding into bases head first and scoring the second run to help out his own cause. The Padres went on to win, 3-0. One television announcer aptly joked that Kevin would also drive home the team bus, having done everything else that night. His inspiring play led the Padres to their second win, and sent the team back home happy.
LHP Sterling Hitchcock (9-7; 1-0) vs. RHP Greg Maddux (18-9; 1-0)
Padres 4, Braves 1
The San Diego fans were again ecstatic at the return of their favorite Friars, and Qualcomm stadium again made its case for being the loudest venue in baseball. Sterling Hitchcock fueled that fire, notching his second post season win in as many starts, first beating Randy Johnson to knock out the Astros, then beating Atlanta's ace, four time Cy young winner Greg Maddux. Cammy came through again for the Pads with a huge RBI single in the fifth to give the Friars the lead that they would keep for the remaining innings. With this 4-1 Padres victory, the Braves faced almost certain extinction. No team had ever come back to win an NLCS after going down three games.
RHP Joey Hamilton (13-13; 0-0) vs. LHP Denny Neagle (11-11; NR)
Braves 8, Padres 3
Perhaps the Braves realized they had better shape up or risk being swept tight out of 1998. Sure, tons of fans at the Q had their brooms out, but had to tuck them back into broom closets. Through six innings, it looked like the Padres were going to eliminate the Braves in four straight games, but the "Big Cat" had a different Idea. Andres Galarraga hit a grand slam in the sixth, igniting a six-run inning, and the Braves avoided the sweep with the come-from-behind win, 8-3.
RHP Andy Ashby (17-9; 0-0) vs. RHP John Smoltz (17-3; 1-0)
Braves 7, Padres 6
Up 4-2 in the seventh inning, with the dominating Kevin Brown on the mound in a rare relief outing, the Padres and their fans could taste the World Series. Brownie retired the batters he faced in the seventh, after coming in for Mark Langston, bringing the Friars six outs away. In the eighth, however, the Braves showed more than 65,000 people why they had been in the playoffs seven times in the last eight years. Padres fans witnessed a different Kevin Brown than they had ever seen beforeone who was human. After Brown allowed a walk to Ryan Klesko and an infield single to Jay Lopez, Michael Tucker hit a three-run homer, giving the Braves the lead. The Padres unable to get it back, despite a two run rally in the ninth. This 7-6 loss shipped our guys back to Atlanta, still with only one victory between them and the elusive World Series.
LHP Sterling Hitchcock (9-7; 2-0) vs. LHP Tom Glavine (20-6; 0-1)
Padres 5, Braves 0
Apparently, the Padres just wanted to beat the Braves in their house for the third straight time, as they rode a 5-0 win right into the World Series. Sterling Hitchcock pitched his way to the Most Valuable Player award on just three days rest, notching a solid performance. Hitch pitched five innings, allowing just two hits with eight strikeouts and no runs. He was undefeated in the National League playoffs, with a 2-0 record in the NLCS, and a remarkable 0.90 ERA.
RHP Kevin Brown (18-7; 2-1) vs. LHP David Wells (18-4; 3-0)
Yankees 9, Padres 6
What a ride! The 1998 season was undoubtedly the most incredible year in baseball history, and the Padres became part of the main attraction. The Padres themselves had a fantastic year, breaking franchise records left and right. They set the record for wins in a season with 98. Trevor Hoffman set the record for saves with 53. Greg Vaughn set the record for home runs with 50. Tony is within sight of 3,000 hits with 2,928. Lastly, the attendance record was shattered as 2,555,901 fans came to watch the eventual National League champs. Going to the World Series only proved to the rest of the nation that the Padres are a world-class organization.
The first game was an eye-opener for the Yankees. Our Padres waltzed into one of the most famous baseball venues in existence and were three innings away from beating perhaps the best Yankee team of all time, in the Bronx, with the crazy Yankees fans shouting the whole way. It was such a fun game to watch, with Vaughn clubbing a home run to bring in Chris Gomez, tying the score in the top of the third. The highlight of the Series came in the fifth inning. Tony Gwynn hit perhaps the longest ball he has ever hit, knocking a two-run homer off the upper deck stands. The Friars went up by two, and the small contingent of Padres fans went wild. However, with only 40 people in a sea of 42,000, they were not very loud. Loud enough, however, for the Yankee fans to hear, so they started chanting expletives at our fans. Fortunately, Vaughny is a good guy to have in your corner, and he had our fans' backs, silencing the rowdy Yankee crowd with a home run deep into the left field bleachers, giving the Padres a three-run lead.
But the Yanks came back with a seven-run seventh inning, and the Pads were never able to recover. Sure, a big moment in that seventh inning was the critical bases-loaded, two-out, 2-2 pitch to Tino Martinez that looked remarkably like a strike, but was called a ball. Instead of a tie game going into the eight, Tino took that extra opportunity and hit a grand slam. Instead of being sent back to the bench by Mark Langston, he was trotting around the bases to the tune of 42,000 wildly screaming fans.
RHP Andy Ashby (17-9; 0-0) vs. RHP Orlando Hernandez (12-4; 1-0)
Yankees 9, Padres 3
Game 2 was a tragedy. The Yankees managed to score six runs in the first two innings alone. That is a pretty large momentum-killer. The Yankees could do no wrong, and our boys just lacked something. Wally Joyner hit a nice ball that looked like it was bound for some fan's lap in the first. Paul O'Neill leapt to the top of the right field fence robbing us of an opportunity to jump out to a quick lead. We were never again within reach of that game, and despite a triple and a run by Chris Gomez, and a pair of doubles from Caminiti and Ruben Rivera, there were few redeeming factors of this game. Players and fans alike were thankful just to get back on the bus, and go back to the "land of milk and honey." Back to where the sun shines, and the fans are friendly. Most importantly, back home.
LHP Sterling Hitchcock (9-7; 3-0) vs. RHP David Cone (20-7; 2-0)
Yankees 5, Padres 4
Sterling Hitchcock had another great outing, taking the Padres into the seventh with the lead. Scott Brosius got his first homer in the seventh, then Shane Spencer got a double, and Hitch got pulled. Despite the two-run seventh, we kept the lead going into the eight. Again Brosius took care of that lead, hitting the most replayed shot of the entire World Series, the three-run homer off Trevor Hoffman stole the game from the Padres. It was quite a game, with great defensive plays on both sides, and the fans were again astonishing. But the Yankees just would not die. The Pads did not give up either, after the second homer by Brosius, but though Quilvio Veras scored in the bottom of the eight, and Carlos Hernandez and Mark Sweeney were on base in the ninth, the Friars could not come back. Everyone played well, but the Yankees were big when they needed to be, putting San Diego in a position against all odds for turning the whole series around. No team in the history of the World Series had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, but the Padres were ready to re-write the history books.
RHP Kevin Brown (18-7; 2-1) vs. LHP Andy Pettitte (16-11)
Yankees 3, Padres 0
Hats off to the Yankees. There is not much else to do to that talented squad of players. They got the job done. Congratulations. But, there is nothing that can take away from the most incredible Padres season ever. Our guys were fantastic on every level, on and off the field. "Without a doubt, this year has been the most fun any of us has ever had," added Tony Gwynn, who hit .500 throughout the Series going 8-for-16 with a hit in each game. This was a special team with fantastic players and chemistry. The fans saw the exceptional nature of the players, and held up that standard themselves. After the game, after having lost the World Series in four straight games, the fans did not turn and leave in disgust. Instead, there was a standing ovation from 65,427 fans, insisting that their team--the team that had worked so hard all season, and had taken them on the most incredible ride through the season--come back out for one final salute. That they did, and their were few dry eyes at the Q. It certainly was a season to remember, one that few San Diegans will ever forget.