The Padres capped their most exciting season ever with a stunning 3-game sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles September 27-29 to capture the second National League Western Division title in the 28-year history of the franchise...down 2 games with 3 to play, the Padres headed up the freeway needing to sweep the Dodgers for the flag...Ken Caminiti won the September 27 series opener with a 10th-inning double as San Diego clinched at least a tie for the wild card berth, taking a 5-2 decision...Tony Gwynn was the hero the following day, breaking a 2-2 tie in the 8th with a 2-run single as the Pads assured themselves of a post-season spot with a 4-2 win...not since 1908 had an N.L. (division) title been decided in a head-to-head matchup on the last day of the season, but that's exactly what happened between the Padres and Dodgers.
In the regular season finale, Chris Gwynn's 2-run pinch-double in the 11th inning, knocking in Caminiti and Finley, gave the Padres a 2-0 lead and Trevor Hoffman notched his 3rd save in as many days, nailing down the N.L. West...on September 30, 1995, the Padres were forced to watch as the Dodgers celebrated their Western title on the Jack Murphy Stadium field...one day short of a year later, the Padres returned the favor, celebrating their first division championship since 1984 at Dodger Stadium.
After winning the West on the last day of the regular season, the Padres were matched up against the N.L. Central champion Cardinals in the Division Series. St. Louis swept San Diego, outscoring the Padres by only 5 runs (15-10) in 3 hotly contested games.
In the opener at Busch Stadium, Gary Gaetti reached Joey Hamilton for a three-run home run with two outs in the first inning. Todd Stottlemyre, Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersley made the lead stand up for a 3-1 victory. Rickey Henderson led off the sixth inning with a homer for the only Padres run. San Diego could not convert on opportunities to tie the score in the seventh and ninth innings en route to the series-opening setback.
Game 2 in St. Louis was decided during a dramatic eighth inning. The Padres, who had earlier trailed 1-0 and 4-1, entered the eighth trailing, 4-3. After Scott Livingstone and Henderson reached to open the inning, Tony Gwynn, batting against Honeycutt, sacrificed the runners over. A Steve Finley groundout tied the score, but the go-ahead run was stranded at third base. In the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals scored the winning run without managing a base hit. Tom Pagnozzi's slow
liner off Trevor Hoffman's glove plated Brian Jordan to make the score 5-4. Eckersley saved his second consecutive game, and the Padres returned to San Diego in a 2-0 holethe identical situation they faced a dozen years earlier before sweeping three in a row from the Chicago Cubs in franchise's only National League Championship Series appearance.
Until the very end, Game 3 looked an awful lot like 1984. A sellout crowd of 53,899 fans at Jack Murphy Stadium cheered wildly as the Padres climbed back from 1-0 and 5-4 deficits.
St. Louis pushed across a run in the first inning and was threatening for more when Archi Cianfrocco gunned down Ron Gant at home plate for an inning-ending double play. The Padres took a 2-1 lead in the 2nd inning before Ken Caminiti added an opposite-field solo home run in the 3rd. With the Cardinals holding a 5-4 advantage after 7 1/2 innings, the San Diego third baseman put the final touch on his spectacular MVP season, drilling a Rick Honeycutt delivery over the right-centerfield wall for his third homer of the series, a game-tying shot.
Just as visions of San Diego's stirring 1984 playoff comeback were rekindled in the hearts and minds of the capacity crowd, the Cardinals' Brian Jordan took control of the game with his glove and bat, ending the Padres' magical season. With two outs in the eighth and pinch-runner Luis Lopez on second base, Jody Reed lined what appeared to be a go-ahead single to right-center. But Jordan raced over and dove head-first to spear the ball and end the inning.
In the top of the 9th, Jordan broke a 5-5 tie with a crushing two-run homer to left. Eckersley came on one final time and, as Caminiti waited in the on-deck circle, retired Finley for the final out. Despite the heartbreaking loss, San Diego fans stood and cheered the Padres, who returned to the field from the clubhouse and in turn recognized the fans for keeping the faith during an unforgettable 1996 season.
In addition to the National League West crown, several Padres took home prestigious individual honors...third baseman Ken Caminiti was a unanimous selection as the National League Most Valuable Player after batting .326 with a club-record 40 homers and 126 RBI...skipper Bruce Bochy won both the BBWAA and The Sporting News' Manager of the Year Awards...Tony Gwynn hit .353 to win his 7th N.L. batting title, his 3rd in a row...Trevor Hoffman was named The Sporting News' N.L. Fireman of the Year, and both Caminiti and Steve Finley won their 2nd consecutive Rawlings' Gold Glove Awards.
|Watch Game 3 of the 1996 Division Series in MLB.com's Baseball Best.|