On this day, 18 years ago, the Padres defeated the Braves in game six of the NLCS to advance to the World Series. Today, we reflect on this bright moment in the organization’s history.
The year was 1998, and the San Diego Padres were serious world championship contenders. Tony Gwynn, who was 38 years old at the time, was striking out only once every 25.6 at bats. Silver Slugger award winner Greg Vaughn hit fifty home runs on the season, highlighting the middle of a dynamic lineup. Kevin Brown was dominating opposing batters, pitching the Padres to the playoffs, and closer Trevor Hoffman led all of baseball with 53 saves.
The Padres were stacked with one of the best rosters in all of baseball, with both talent and experience. On this day in history, they went up against the Atlanta Braves in game six of the 1998 NLCS.
The Padres entered the game at brand new Turner Field with a 3-2 series advantage, but were coming off of a game five in which star pitcher Brown had a disastrous outing. San Diego came in as an underdog, as they started Sterlock Hitchcock against all time great Tom Glavine. It looked like the national league championship series would be heading to a game seven, a game which would have also taken place in Atlanta.
But Hitchcock and the Padres had other ideas. Holding on to a 0-0 tie through five innings, it seemed like Glavine was cruising, and no one knew how long Hitchcock would hold up.
What happened next though has gone down in Padres’ history. The top of the sixth started with a simple RBI groundout by Jim Leyritz, followed by a run scoring single by Wally Joyner. Then, a costly error with Hitchrock at the plate extended the inning, and Glavine was chased out of the game. The finishing touches of the huge five run inning were made via RBI singles from Quilvio Veras and Tony Gwynn.
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With a 5-0 lead, the Padres turned to their bullpen, who shut down the Braves over the last four innings and clinched the pennant. In total, the dominant San Diego pitching surrendered just two hits to an elite Atlanta offense.
The Padres had won their second and most recent pennant due to their five run offensive explosion in the sixth inning, one of the most revered moments in franchise history. They would go on to the 1998 World Series and take on the New York Yankees, seeking their first ever title.
Friars on Base will follow this championship series against the Yankees as the anniversaries of each game passes. Stay tuned for game one on October 17th, as we reminisce on each of the games in the 1998 World Series.