Again, “Friar Faithful” will have to wait until next year

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“Keep the faith” was a Padres a slogan that dates back virtually to the franchise’s major league debut in 1969, when fans watched the first ball club finish 41 games out of first place.

It would be a decade before Padres fans saw the team finish a season with a winning record.

Postseason success has been very rare over the years, but the 2022 team matched the 1984 and 1998 Padres’ World Series-winning football clubs.

Over the past three days, thousands of fans have attended Petco Park parties to share in the experience of being close to the team, even though the team itself was 2,400 miles away in Philadelphia.

An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 fans were at Petco Friday and Saturday night for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Championship Series. There were about 8,000 people on the ground Game five on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m not a bigot, but I’m a fan,” said Chula Vista’s Tim Hagel, who wore a giant helmet as he cheered on fans on the field. “Get up. Let’s go, let’s go.”

Their faith was tested over the weekend.

The losses on Friday and Saturday made Sunday a must-win game as the Padres look to extend the NLCS, bringing it back to San Diego on Monday for Game 6.

The fans chanted and cheered throughout the contest, their voices breaking into a roar as the game went back and forth.

They especially enjoyed seeing themselves on the video board, dancing to the music, high-fiving and waving their foam fingers as they wanted the team to win.

The crowd got a good laugh in the seventh inning when the video board showed a man wearing a T-shirt that said, “Pretend I’m a goose.”

He made it more convincing by clapping his hands.

Hope grew when the Padres rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the innings.

Chants of “Let’s go, Padres” began just before Jake Cronenworth’s single to center field leading off the seventh.

That changed to cheers when Cronenworth advanced to second base on Serantani Dominguez’s wild pitch, and the crowd erupted when teammate Josh Bell doubled to tie the game at 2-2.

The fans turned the game up another notch when pinch runner Jose Azocar was driven wildly to third and then home, giving the Padres their first lead at 3-2.

“It’s been up and down, but the pitching has been really good this season,” Crown Point’s Bill Darnell said as the Padres clung to the lead. “When they put it together, it was fantastic.

“We have to win.”

Darnell was more desperate than most in the stands.

After all, he had tickets to Game 5 of the 1998 World Series, which ended in a four-game sweep for the Yankees.

He also had tickets to Monday’s Game 6 of the NLCS.

The Padres grounds crew was working on the field — smoothing and watering the infield — while it all unfolded.

“It will be tomorrow,” Darnell said hopefully.

Yes, it will, although it will be the first day of the offseason for the Padres.

Darnell and another Faithful brother had their hearts broken when Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.

It gave the Phillies a 4-3 victory that clinched a spot in the World Series.

The Padres put another message on the giant video board as fans recorded: Thank you Brother Verna.

Bose Renteria of Point Loma, who was spending the day at the soccer field with his mom, was stuck on the terrace level afterward.

“It was a great game until the end,” said Renteria, who was wearing the jersey of longtime Padres catcher Benito Santiago. “I knew it was going to happen. I could see the writing on the wall because I played baseball for 18 years.

“I saw it right in front of me. That’s all. That’s the end of it.”

There is no faith.

Still, Renteria was impressed with the team’s performance this season.

“It’s been a great year,” he said. “I thought we were going to be good, but we weren’t.”

How disappointing is such an abrupt ending?

“Bad,” said Renteria, who hoped the Padres would avoid a sweep in Philadelphia and bring the NLCS back to San Diego.

“That’s all I wanted,” he said. “Another home game.”

Only next year. Opening on March 30.

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