Padre Victor Caratini takes a long look as he wins the game on a walk-off two-run homer. Photo credit: @Padres, via Twitter

The Padres played at Petco Park at full capacity for the first time since 2019 Thursday and gave the fans a thrill ride, beating the Cincinnati Reds 6-4 on the strength of two home runs in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Closer Mark Melancon blew a 2-0 Padre lead in the top of the inning, a potential crusher for the Padres, who just finished a tough road trip, capped by a sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies.

But Eric Hosmer, who had been slumping, stepped up with a game-tying two-run homer to score Manny Machado, who led off the inning with a walk. Reliever Ryan Hendrix gave way to Amir Garrett, off whom Jake Cronenworth promptly singled.

That set the stage for Victor Caratini’s walk-off to left – on an 0-2 pitch, no less – a shot to left he clearly knew he’d hit out.

“Tried to make it interesting for y’all and it turned out to be good,” Hosmer joked in the post-game interview on Bally Sports San Diego. He called the atmosphere “electric.”

The team billed the game as “San Diego’s Opening Day,” a nod to the end of capacity limits at Petco Park this season due to pandemic restrictions. Statewide restrictions were lifted Tuesday.

Fans were treated to a matchup of two pitchers who threw no-hitters this season – right-hander Joe Musgrove (4-6), who pitched the Padres’ first no-hitter April 9, and Reds’ lefty Wade Miley (6-4) , who threw his a month later against the Cleveland Indians.

Miley didn’t give up a hit until the 6th inning, when Fernando Tatis Jr. broke through with a solo homer to center, his 22nd of the year, tying him for the Major League lead.

Machado added a homer in the 7th, but the usually reliable Melancon, tied for the MLB lead with 19 saves, faltered. He gave up four runs in the top of the 9th, including second baseman Jonathan India’s two-run homer to give the Reds a temporary lead.

The Padres broke Cincinnati’s six-game winning streak. The Friars had lost seven of their last eight games to drop to third in the National League West, six games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants.

The Padres played at Petco Park without fans during the coronavirus-delayed and shortened 2020 season.

Thursday’s pregame ceremonies included honors for 4,000 front-line workers, 275 uniformed personnel from Navy Region Southwest and a flyover by F/A-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar.

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Nancy Yam, director of acute care pharmacy services for UC San Diego Health.

With near-capacity crowds expected at Petco Park for the remainder of the season, the Metropolitan Transit System will increase the frequency of its trolley service. Trolleys will serve all stations every seven to 15 minutes most of the day.

– Compiled from City News Service and staff reports.

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