Looking Back: The Padres 1984 NLCS Game Five


As the World Series is about to get underway for 2014, and two of the most unlikeliest of competitors are about to square off, we complete the first of our two-part looking back series today. Part one is a retrospective of the San Diego Padres’ first pennant-winning season of 1984, but going through game-by-game of what was a hard-fought, pressure-packed NLCS. The Cubs jumped out to a commanding two games-to-none lead, and were looking to finish off the Padres in Game Three in San Diego.

We know that didn’t happen, and after jumping out to an early lead in Game Four, Cubs fans were starting to believe that the World Series was going to be a reality for the first time since 1945. Wrong again. A 5-RBI night from Padres’ first baseman Steve Garvey put the damper on those hopes. The Padres had climbed all the way back from their 2-0 deficit, and had tied the series, forcing a decisive Game Five in San Diego. The winner advances to the World Series, the loser goes home filled with disappointment, angst, and thoughts of what might have been. As we finish Part I, sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the best memories in Padres’ franchise history! 

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The Cubs felt pretty confident heading into Game Five, sending the dominant Rick Sutcliffe to the mound. He shutdown the Padres in Game One, and was looking to do the same in the most important game in the franchise’s history since during the World War II era. They also had to feel good shortly after the game started, as Chicago jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against the Friars and starter Eric Show.

The Sarge, Gary Matthews, reached base, stole second, and came home on a two-run blast by first baseman Leon Durham. The Cubs were off and running. Show’s day would be short and sweet. When the top of the second inning started, catcher Jody Davis went yard for Chicago, upping the lead to 3-0, without a hitter having been retired in the second inning. Show retired shortstop Larry Bowa, and Sutcliffe ended his day with a single. Padres’ manager Dick Williams went back to the dependable Andy Hawkins out of the bullpen, before the game and the pennant slipped away. A force out and a caught stealing ended the Cubs’ threat in the second.

After pitching a scoreless third, Williams pinch hit for Hawkins in the Friars’ half of the third. Alan Wiggins reached base on a one-out walk, but that was all for the Padres. The Cubs were inching closer to a National League pennant, as Sutcliffe was flat out dealing. Dave Dravecky, as had been the case the entire series, followed Hawkins into the game. The score remained 3-0 Cubs until the bottom of the sixth inning.

Wiggins led off the bottom of the sixth with a bunt single. That was followed by a sharp single to left field by Tony Gwynn. The bases then became loaded when series hero Steve Garvey drew a walk. Padres’ third baseman Graig Nettles, who had played in multiple Octobers during his tenure in the Bronx, hit a sac fly, scoring Wiggins from third. That was followed by catcher Terry Kennedy also hitting a sac fly, which scored Gwynn. At the end of six, the Padres had drawn closer, with the Cubs holding a 3-2 lead. Reliever Craig Lefferts was now on the mound for San Diego, having replaced Dravecky.

The Cubs went down without issue in their half of the seventh, and San Diego struck once again. Carmelo Martinez drew a walk. Shortstop Gary Templeton sac bunted Martinez down to second. Dick Williams then sent Tim Flannery to the plate in place of Lefferts. At this point, one of the biggest fielding errors in postseason history occurred. Flannery hit a sharp ground to first baseman Leon Durham, who let it go between his legs. The floodgates were now open. Wiggins followed the Durham error with a single, Gwynn with a double, which scored both Flannery and Wiggins, and Gwynn advanced to third on the throw to the plate. Garvey drove home Gwynn on a single, and drove Sutcliffe from the game.

Game Two starter, Steve Trout, who had pitched about as well as Sutcliffe in his second game victory, was brought in to stop the bleeding. He retired Garvey on a ground out to second by Nettles, and Kennedy struck out swinging to end the disastrous inning for the Cubs. The Padres were now in control, 6-3.

The Cubs posed another threat against Rich Gossage, but were unable to bring anyone home, as Richie Hebner was beaned by a pitch, Ryne Sandberg singled, sending Hebner to third base, and Sandberg stole second. Sarge Matthews struck out to end the threat after 7 1/2.

In the top of the 9th inning, the goat, Leon Durham, had another chance to make up for his mistake. Instead he flew out to right for the first out. Keith Moreland came through for the Cubbies with a single to right. Ron Cey was the second out, popping out to former longtime teammate Garvey at first. Jody Davis then hit a ground ball down the third base line that Craig Nettles snagged, and threw over to Wiggins at second base, retiring Moreland, and clinching the 1984 National League pennant for the San Diego Padres, the first in their franchise’s history.

The Padres had come all the way back, with their backs to the wall, facing elimination in each of the last three games, and secured victory. Steve Garvey was named NLCS MVP after a brilliant performance at the plate. For the Cubs, it was a crushing defeat, that would hang over the team’s head for the next couple of seasons. They wouldn’t reach the National League Championship Series again until 1989, when the San Francisco Giants wiped them out to advance to the Bay Series that season against the Oakland A’s.

Check back in with us, as Part II of our looking back series begins, with the 1984 World Series, pitting the San Diego Padres, champions of the National League, against the dominant Detroit Tigers, led by Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Sweet Lou Whitaker. Thanks for reading!

As a special treat, I have found YouTube footage of the entire Game Five matchup between the Padres and Cubs. Enjoy the entire game here: