Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back in First Place

"Don't worry, boys - I got this."
Does the air seem cleaner today?  The sky brighter, traffic lighter, and people happier than yesterday?  It could be the Wednesday AM drizzle cleared out some of the lingering summer crap.  OR, it could be the Padres return to first place.

Yes, thanks to the Diamondbacks beating the Colorado Ubaldos, and Chicago shutting out the Giants, San Diego returns to their rightful place atop the NL West.  Philadelphia's sweep of Atlanta also pushed the Padres ahead of the Braves in the Wild Card race.

Overnight, San Diego's playoff odds jumped from 44.1% to 61.9%.  Awesome.

Miguel Tejada provided the big blow with his 300th career HR, and that's a big milestone to be sure.  But let us pause a moment and consider what Tim Stauffer has done in the rotation lately.  He's made for high leverage starts in September, thrown 21 innings, allowed 6 runs.  Four of those came in the same game, last Thursday in St Louis; 3 of those runs scored because Albert Pujols' RBI dying flare landed JUUUUUST out of Ryan Ludwick's reach, and Yadier Molina's hit a 2 RBI flare off Ryan Webb in a perfect spot (on the RF line out of everyone's reach).

Overall he's thrown 26 innings as a starter and posted a 2.08 ERA.  In September he's been the best Padre starter not named Clayton Richard.  With Jon Garland's and Mat Latos' struggles, Stauffer has been essential to keeping San Diego in the playoff hunt.  It is not an exaggeration to say the Padres probably would be dead and buried without him.

Mat Latos will start today against Hiroki Kuroda.  Frankly I'm a bit surprised by this.  Yes he did get an extra day of rest following his Friday start/drubbing in St Louis, but I kind of expected San Diego to skip his turn in the rotation and have Chris Young start today on normal rest.  Granted, CY has not beaten LA in LA since 2007 (and in fact has only beaten the Dodgers once up there), but it seemed a good time to rest Latos.

The Cardinals and Giants attacked Latos early in the count with great success.  It will be quite interesting to see how Latos adjusts to that strategy in this start.

The Padres Trail Podcast returns tonight!  We've a lot to talk about.  Hope you can listen in.

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