How Juan Soto, Josh Hader powered the Padres to first NLCS series in 24 years

The San Diego Padres are headed to the NLCS for the first time since 1998, and major acquisitions like Juan Soto and Josh Hader helped get them there.

The San Diego Padres are headed to the NLCS for the first time since 1998. They beat out the Los Angeles Dodgers for the spot, which is a feat that hardly anybody saw coming after last season. However, with talented players such as Juan Soto and Josh Hader joining the roster at the trade deadline, the Padres have reached the elusive success they’ve been chasing for decades.

After watching the team struggle for years, San Diego has finally ended up on top — at least through the NLDS series. They’ve made it the furthest out of their division in the postseason and have proven they are a team to fear in their impending series versus the Philadelphia Phillies.

A lot of the credit is due to Padres ownership for acquiring Soto and Hader, with credit also due to the players themselves for holding the best-of-five series to just four games.

Juan Soto and Josh Hader helped power the Padres to shocking victory

There were quite a few San Diego players who notably contributed to the team’s postseason success. Joe Musgrove pitched incredible games, Manny Machado stayed powerful at bat, Trent Grisham hit three home runs through Game 3 and even Jurickson Profar hit homers that drove in a few runs.

However, Soto and Hader were extra security in the process. Soto, the biggest trade of the 2022 MLB deadline, tied the final game against the Dodgers and helped drive the comeback in the seventh inning. Hader closed out the game beautifully and secured San Diego’s spot in the NLCS.

Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller spoke about how the blockbuster deadline trades were coming to fruition at a critical juncture.

“They’re phenomenal players,” Preller said. “That’s why we made the trades, honestly. It’s pretty simple — they’re the best at what they do in the world. If you’re gonna beat a team like that, you need guys that are the best in the game.”

Soto wasn’t the best slugger during the regular season, but he came up with four key hits during the Wild Card series versus the Mets as well as eight batted balls sailing at over 100 mph during the NLDS series.

Hader followed a similar path in the regular season, putting up unimpressive numbers when the Padres jumped for him at the deadline. The four-time All-Star “gave up 22 runs in a nine-inning stretch from July 13 to Aug. 28, an unimaginable slump for one of the sport’s most dominant relievers”, recounts ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. But Hader bounced back, correcting his form before a beautiful playoff stretch. So far, Hader has pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs.

Success could’ve been possible without them, but it’s unlikely that San Diego could have closed it out in Game 4 without Soto and Hader. With these two stars, the Padres took down the Dodgers, who had one of the best regular seasons in MLB history — and who the Padres hadn’t won a series against in the 2022 regular season.

This is newfound success for the Padres, considering they hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2006 (excluding 2020) and hadn’t finished a season above .500 (also excluding 2020) since 2010. San Diego was truly an underdog team with low expectations coming into the postseason, and they came back with a vengeance.

Now, they’re just one series away from the World Series. If they repeat their 1998 success — and go even further by winning their first-ever World Series — Juan Soto and Josh Hader will be an inextricable part of the equation.

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