Padres turn to October ace Musgrove vs. Phillies in Game 3
There was at least one fuddy-duddy in San Diego who did not see the humor in a mural painted this week of the famous San Diego Chicken using his super-sized yellow foot to stomp on the side of the head of the Phillie Phanatic.
Did someone cry fowl because of the mascot-on-mascot crime?
Or was it just superstition that made the makeover necessary because of a belief it’s best not to put the cart before the chicken?
Whatever the reason, the mural outside Tivoli Bar and Grill was quickly gone — yes, a true cover-up because no one has fessed up to applying the fresh coat of paint — but the original art is a bit of a metaphor for what’s happening in the National League Championship Series.
The Padres are suddenly putting the hurt on the Phillies.
Yes, the NLCS is only tied 1-1 as it shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Friday, but the Padres not only roughed up October ace Aaron Nola in an 8-5 victory, they have the decisive edge on the mound in Philly.
San Diego’s Joe Musgrove survived a TSA-worthy pat-down and tossed a one-hit ball over seven shutout innings in an NL Wild Card Series win over the Mets and followed up with six solid innings to help beat the Dodgers in the NLCS. The Phillies counter with lefty Ranger Suárez, who walked five in 3 1/3 innings in his Game 2 NLDS start at Atlanta.
Musgrove (1-0, 1.38 postseason) is ready for the moment.
His story, at times, almost seems like a work of fiction for those who followed the 29-year-old big right-hander's career. The El Cajon native grew up rooting for the Padres and former ace Jake Peavy. Musgrove threw the Padres’ first no-hitter — in the team’s 8,206th regular-season game — in just his second start with the team last year. He pitched in his first All-Star Game this year and then signed a $100 million, five-year contract that starts next season. Oh, then comes the part where the hometown-ish boy helped the Padres clinch an NL wild-card spot.
He’s kept a level head even if his San Diego tenure at times all seems too good to be true. Musgrove said he’s mentally more prepared to handle the anticipation, nerves and pressure of the postseason more than 2017 when he pitched for the World Series champion Houston Astros.
“I’ve been beat down by the crowd, at times, in my postseason career,” Musgrove said Thursday. “I think, ultimately, I’ve got a way better understanding of myself and how things work. Certain triggers that I have, and what it is that really gets to me and being able to have some awareness of what those things are before I got into a moment like this. It’s very helpful.”
Neither Melvin nor Phillies manager Rob Thomson announced Game 4 starters for Saturday. Thomson, though, said there was “no chance” Game 1 winner Zack Wheeler starts on short rest. The series also faces the quirk of no off day between a potential Game 5 Sunday in Philadelphia and Game 6 Monday in San Diego, the travel day a casualty of the lockout.
“I think without the off day, it possibly taxes you a little bit more because you’ve got to go five days in a row, potentially,” Thomson said. “So you really have to be diligent about how you use those guys and make sure you’re not overworking them where their stuff or their production goes down, and you put them at injury risk.”
Thomson reminded the Phillies that they lost Game 2 of the NLDS in Atlanta and rebounded with two of their best games this year. Rhys Hoskins doesn’t necessarily have to spike his bat in this Game 3 -- though it would help -- but Thomson said the Phillies returned in good spirits and he gave them the day off. The Padres had a light, late-afternoon workout at Citizens Bank Park.
The sports complex, home to three stadiums, will be jammed Friday night with a Smashing Pumpkins concert at the Wells Fargo Center and a Temple football game at Lincoln Financial Field, all taking place at the same time as Game 3.
It’s up to Suárez to disarm the Padres in front of a raucous home crowd. The Phillies are 2-0 at home this postseason and outscored Atlanta 17-4 in two home Division Series games; the Padres are 3-2 on the road.
“We feel pretty good being home here for the next three games in front of our own fans,” Thomson said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”