Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bringing the Playoff Hammer

You don't want to play the Padres these days.

After spotting the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead, San Diego roared back to take control of the game via 3 consecutive 2-run innings. Then, after Dale Thayer got Matt Holliday to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded to end the seventh, the Padres broke the game open with 5 runs to win going away. 11-3 was your final.

Some scoring tidbits:

- The last time San Diego hung 11 on the Cardinals was last April 2 in St Louis.
- The last time they scored 10 or more against the Cardinals in San Diego was 5/28/2006 (W 10-8). That game is memorable because Josh Bard hit 2 home runs off Mark Mulder. It's the only 2-HR game of Bard's career.
- You have to go back to 1993 to find a home game where the Padres scored at least 11 runs against St Louis - 8/24/1993 to be exact. The Padres scored 13 in the first inning that Tuesday night, although only 9700 people saw it.

Some odds and ends from last night (quick hits, since I started this post at 0650 and now it's 1510):

- You're no doubt aware that Cameron Maybin and Logan Forsythe had three opportunities to be the first Padre to hit for the cycle. In those 3 AB neither one put the ball in play (Maybin walked). Oh, well.

(Seque: Andrew Cashner will throw the first no-hitter in Padres history. Bank it.)

- I couldn't tell if Forsythe burned Cardinal CF John Jay on his RBI double in the second, or if Jay just took a bad route to the ball. Some on Twitter thought the latter. That ball was drilled, however.

- Initially I thought wild pitch was the correct call, allowing Everth Cabrera to advance to third; after looking at the replay, however, he was going. Perhaps it should have been a stolen base.

- Taking Carlos Quentin out after his AB leading off the third - right call. He looked uncomfortable at the plate during that at-bat.

- Good Grief Maybin's HR was crushed. 439' was a conservative distance.

- When was the last time a Padre got six plate appearances, at home, during a 9-inning game? Can't remember seeing it in person this year.

- Reports that Pete Kozma can't hit seem greatly exaggerated. Then again, one game is the definition of a SMALL SAMPLE SIZE.

- Jamie Garcia couldn't find the plate, and when he did find it he caught too much of it. I've been out of touch a lot, but there seemed to be a lot of hysteria amongst #stlcards Tweeters about his home/road splits. Yes, Garcia is a much different pitcher at home than on the road. It has to be all mental; is he able to locate that badly at Busch and get away with it? Can't be.

- Cardinal pitching in this game was awful overall. They gave up 4 - FOUR - unintentional 4-pitch walks in this game. Headley got 2, Kotsay 1, Grandal the other. I believe there is a study out there documenting that the strike zone gets bigger in the pitcher's favor on a 3-0 count. St Louis hurlers couldn't even hit that expanded zone.

- Shelby Miller pitched well. Hey, he kept the Cardinals in the game for 3 innings when San Diego threatened to blow it open early. When he has a HOF career, I can say I saw his first ML at bat. Assuming I don't lose my scorecard.

- Holliday's double play. Killer.

- David Freese was hit twice last night. St Louis came way in to Yonder Alonso in the eighth, after Freese got hit the second time, but didn't hit him. I wonder if this will carry over to tonight's game. St Louis can't afford to give the Padres free baserunners, not the way they're currently swinging the bat.

St Louis came in leading for the second Wild Card spot, but you would have thought the Padres were playing for a post-season berth, not the Cardinals, the way last night's game unfolded. It's too bad the Padres are 8.5 back with 20 to play, because I would not want to face them in the post-season.

Neither do the remaining teams fighting for a playoff spot.

CORRECTION to my last post: I said if the Padres won 4 of 6 from the Diamondbacks they'd tie AZ. Yeah, not quite. They'd need to win 5 of 6 to catch AZ, assuming they both win the same number of games outside of those head-to-head matchups. Math is hard.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Games That Matter

Let's face it - sports are a lot more fun to play when there's something to play for.  When asked, every player will tell you they want to win the World Series this year.  Not everyone gets to do that.  As the season progresses, teams fall out of contention, and by September they are 'playing out the string'.

Thanks to the Wild Card construct, the number of teams with something to play for has gone up dramatically.  But that doesn't just include those teams vying for a playoff spot.  It also includes those teams in their way, who no longer have hopes of getting deep into October.

Two months ago, when looking at the September schedule, one knew the Padres would have games that mattered to play, but only because they played teams trying to get to the post-season and could stand in their way.  Los Angeles.  San Francisco.  St Louis.  That's still true.  But they also have games that matter to play for their own sake.  They have an outside shot at getting to .500 before the season ends.  They have a better shot to catch Arizona for third in the West.

I'm glad they're playing well.  It makes me smile that they have a chance to torpedo the Dodgers' chances for a playoff spot, and they scored a direct hit last night with the 6-3 win.  Maybe they'll administer the coup de grace in late September at Petco.  They can also gain a small measure of revenge for years of playoff futility by smacking around the Cardinals next week.  They've already left the Pirates playoff ship dead in the water and listing heavily to port by taking 5 of the 6 games from Pittsburgh.  That's a lot of nautical references, isn't it?

The games I'm REALLY looking forward to are the 3 here against Arizona this weekend, and the three in AZ in 2 weeks.  Why?  Because no one in their right mind thought the Padres would finish higher than fourth in this division this year.  No one in their right mind thought they'd be within shouting distance of .500 in early September.  Yes I realize they need to finish 18-7 to reach .500, and that is a tall order; the mere fact we can talk about it without looking really stupid is a victory.

San Diego last won the season series from Arizona in 2010.  They've only won more than 10 games from the Diamondbacks once in their history (12, 2004).  If the Padres win both those series they'll match that total.  If they win both series they'll catch Arizona in the loss column (assuming they each have identical records in their other games).

I hope (and expect) they'll continue to be a thorn in the side of the Dodgers, Giants, and Cardinals down the stretch.  Two weeks from now I really hope they'll be looking down at AZ from third place.  Wouldn't that be great.