Joe Musgrove, as you’re probably already aware, grew up in east San Diego County and attended many Padres games as a kid. His introduction to the Padres-Dodgers rivalry was…well, it’s very on-brand for the wretchedness these fan bases feel for each other.
“At Qualcomm (Stadium), Phil Nevin was taking batting practice, and I went in early with one of my friends to watch batting practice,” Musgrove says. “My parents got us and settled us then I think someone ran back to the car to grab the other people to get in so we’re sitting in the car watching BP. Nevin hits the ball into the cup holder and a few rows to my left and I this other kid, we’re looking at him from side to side. We’re both waiting for someone to make the first move, and then it was a mad dash to get to the ball.”
And who won the race?
“I think I got to it first and he got tired of trying to get it out of my hand. We ended up getting into this little fight and I hit a kid. I think it might have been the first kid I ever hit. I kind of looked at him like oh my god what did I just do? And one of the security guys kicked me out. So it was my first Dodger game when I got kicked out. I was able to go back with my parents but they weren’t too happy about us getting into that.”
On Saturday night, Joe has a chance to write his name in Padres-Dodgers series history in a slightly different way. He gets the ball to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series with his Padres leading two games to one. That means a win and the Friars are back in the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1998.
Pitchers should try to approach a game like this as just another start. Joe admits that really won’t be possible.
“It’s probably going to be a bit more emotional, so I’ll have to sort that out, but it’s something I’ll be aware of when I’m preparing,” says Musgrove. “Going through every situation: excitement, joy, struggle, whatever I’m going to face, I’ll be ready for it.”
The good news is that he has another emotional outing behind him and it is fresh in his mind. Last Sunday, Musgrove pitched 7.0 shutouts in the Wild Card Series game against the Mets in New York. Although he threw a no-hitter, it was arguably the best start of his career, and experience is a hell of a teacher.
“I think that will help calm the nerves a little bit. I don’t expect to go out there and go 7.0 again with one shot,” Musgreove said. “It’s a little different line-up. They’re very patient, I’ve seen enough of them now, and they’ve seen enough of me to know what the offensive game is like, so it’s going to be about execution and a little bit of unpredictability.”
This is where having an arsenal of 6 points comes in handy. Musgrove isn’t shy about deploying his weapons in unique ways, and he’ll need to mix up a few wrinkles against a division opponent that has seen him on more than one occasion.
The Dodgers will counter with All-Star lefty Tyler Anderson, who owns a 1.88 ERA in four starts against the Padres this season. LA’s season is on the line, but this club has been in situations like this before. In 2020, they trailed the Braves 3-1 in the NLCS to win the World Series. Additionally, they won 111 games in the regular season. A desperate team, especially a desperate talented team, is a dangerous thing. So probably the best way to deal Musgrove is with the Dodgers?
Just go out and punch them in the mouth.
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