San Diego Padres Earn First Playoff Berth in 14 Years
It finally happened–the moment that San Diego sports fans have all been desperately awaiting. For the first time in over a decade, the San Diego Padres are playoff bound. They are the No. 4 seed and will host the St. Louis Cardinals in their first Wild Card Series starting at 2pm PT on Wednesday.
Baseball’s playoff format this year is quite confusing. From MLB’s two leagues (National and American) 16 teams make up the postseason this year, up from the usual 10. The top two teams from each of the six divisions and the next two best teams in each league round out the World Series contenders. Unlike any other year however, all teams will face off in a best-of-three Wild Card Series, at the higher ranked team’s stadium, to earn a spot in the best-of-five Division Series, which will happen in the bubble. Follow?
All you need to know is that Petco Park will finally be filled with postseason action. Here are a couple reasons why Padres fans should be confident about this playoff run.
Hot Bats and Lights Out Pitching. . . All Season Long
Despite this year being one of the most unprecedented in sports history, the Padres brought the heat all shortened-season long. They finished with the best winning percentage in franchise history at .617. Their 37-23 record ranked second-best in the National League (NL). San Diego has proven why they deserved a playoff berth–at the plate and on the mound.
The Padres finished with a .796 OPS, fourth highest in the majors. They have the second highest run differential and finished the third highest in runs scored. San Diego has two NL MVP candidates swinging hot bats in their lineup with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., who each rank among the top 10 in the league for home runs. And don’t count out Wil Myers, who hit 15 homers this year, making the Padres the only other team besides the Los Angeles Dodgers to have three players hit over 15 home runs this season.
San Diego’s pitching staff finally fell into place near the end of regular season play. Their 3.86 ERA ranked eighth, and they finished fifth for strikeouts. Relievers Drew Pomeranz and Trevor Rosenthal have come in clutch during tough innings to win close games all year. While the injury status for their ace starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger remain unknown, manager Jayce Tingler feels optimistic that both will be viable options heading into the Wild Card series.
“We’ll know information each day,” Tingler said in an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune. “All signs seem to be very encouraging.”
Padres’ Team Chemistry Wins Ballgames
Recall watching Padre games for the past 13 years. If San Diego went down a couple runs at any point in the game, the team hardly had any fire to bounce back. Pitching didn’t improve and lineups stayed quiet. Morale seemed low and rally caps never came on.
This year, it’s an entirely new story–the story of the comeback.
San Diego’s 22 comeback victories–the most in the league– prove just how relentless they can be. This Pads Squad is special. They made win-now moves all season long, utilized an incredibly dynamic lineup every single game and garnered the nickname Slam Diego Padres for a reason. The Friars are flashy. They’re fun. They’re electric.
ICYMI: @tatis_jr has entered the Matrix. 😎
— MLB (@MLB) September 10, 2020
Padres and Cardinals Have History
It’s important to note that the Cardinals have eliminated the Padres in their last two trips to the postseason–once in a sweep in the NLDS in 2005 and again in four games in 2006. Granted, that was over 14 years ago. But considering this is the fourth time in all six of the playoff appearances that Birds face the Pads, one may consider them postseason rivals.
St. Louis knows better than any team this year just how crucial every game and every inning can be. After their season came to a standstill because of a COVID-19 outbreak on their team, the Cardinals had to play 53 games in 44 days–including 11 double headers–in order to clinch a playoff spot. Injuries to starting pitchers and offensive struggles also plague the Cards. They’ve treaded water all season long to get to this point.
But the main reason the Padres can win is because of the team chemistry they built game in and game out. Tatis Jr. said it best during the latest postgame celebration: “We just have each other’s back and we find a way to win games.”
The Padres are the favorites in this Wild Card Series, and rightfully so. They earned it. Their hot bats and rock solid pitching should edge out the Cards for the first round of playoffs. But anything can happen in the year 2020, right?
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images