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If you would’ve told the Padres that Juan Soto would have almost the exact same on-base percentage and slugging percentage after they traded for him, I’m guessing they would’ve been dreaming of an OPS close to 1.000. But in his 52 regular-season games with the Padres, Soto slugged just .390 (to go with his .388 OBP), mystifying “rival evaluators,” not to mention the Padres, as our Ken Rosenthal wrote.

Soto hit six regular-season homers in 182 at-bats for the Padres, who pulled off a deadline deal for the ages to acquire him for this very moment. But while Soto only has a .560 OPS with no homers and more walks (three) than extra-base hits (two) this postseason, his RBI double in the fifth inning Wednesday changed the complexion of the game (tying it at 4-4) and maybe the series.

I’m sure A.J. Preller traded for Soto with the dream of him clobbering the Dodgers. Soto had three hits in the Padres’ four games, but his RBI single in the seventh inning of Game 4 tied the game at 3-3.  He stole second and scored on Jake Cronenworth’s game-winning two-run single.

Soto earned his reputation as a 20-year-old in the 2019 playoffs, when he compiled a .927 OPS by hitting five homers and three doubles in 75 plate appearances. He still has time to beef up his postseason totals, but one would assume the Padres will be happy if he just comes through in clutch situations — and, of course, the team keeps winning.

Before that fifth inning, it sure looked like the Phillies’ good-time baseball carnival was going to roll through San Diego too en route to the World Series. But now it’s back to even as the series moves to Philadelphia. I’m not saying it’s going to be electric at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, but you don’t even need to plug in your electric car, say a Polestar 2, to charge it Friday. Just drive near the stadium.

Every day during the MLB Playoffs, The Athletic’s MLB writers will make their picks straight up. We put our picks and all series coverage, plus the latest odds, all in one place for fans to easily digest and follow. Our in-depth coverage from our stable of The Athletic writers is linked below the picks.


NLCS Game 3: San Diego Padres (-115) at Philadelphia Phillies (-105) — 7:37 p.m. on FS1

Series tied 1-1

Series odds: Padres (-110), Phillies (-110)

Game 2 pitching matchup: Joe Musgrove vs. Ranger Suarez

Over/under: 7.5

Writer pick

Chad Jennings

Andy McCullough

C. Trent Rosecrans

Eno Sarris

Sahadev Sharma

According to Jayson Stark, who got this nugget from, uh, STATS, “only three other teams in postseason history have won a Game 1 anywhere, then blown a lead of four-plus runs the next game.” (Shouldn’t Stark have his own STATS bureau in his house, like Davante Adams’ Taco Bell?)

The Phillies did this, of course, in Game 2. Two of those other three teams lost their playoff series, including the 2011 Phillies. A lost opportunity can weigh heavily on the soul. While the Phillies return home to a rambunctious bunch of fans, many of whom, I assume, will still be wearing Eagles jerseys even though it’s a bye week, the Padres have the better starter in Game 3, which is the true momentum in baseball — the cliche every ballwriter learns from a coach/manager early in their career. Joe Musgrove has a 1.38 ERA in two playoff starts this season, thanks in part to 13 strikeouts (to only four walks) in 13 innings.

I like the Padres to win and the under to hit Friday.


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(Photo of Manny Machado: Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)



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