It seems that every time the San Diego Padres make it to the postseason, the St. Louis Cardinals crush their hopes. That was certainly the case in 2005 and 2006.
The trend appears to be replaying itself, as the Padres find themselves down 0-1 in a three-game series.
Manager Jayce Tingler’s idea of having Chris Paddack start the game on the mound backfired, and it backfired big. The 24-year-old, caught in the midst of an extremely disappointing and enigmatic season, was tasked with pitching a quality game. Yet he couldn’t get out of the third inning. Within those three innings, he surrendered six runs and put the team in a difficult position to come back. In the end, they couldn’t pull out the win, as they mustered four runs instead of the eight needed to beat the Red Birds.
However, there were some positives to the game, especially because the Padres’ bullpen and bats made the contest intriguing.
One of the biggest positives for San Diego in this game was the bullpen. Although the pitchers who appeared after Paddack got into jams, they were able to pitch their way out. In the fourth inning, for example, Craig Stammen left runners on first and third by striking out two batters: Tommy Edman and Yadier Molina. Emilio Pagán performed a similar act as he walked two batters in the sixth yet was able to get out of trouble by striking out Matt Carpenter on a full count. This is all to say that the Padres’ relievers were clutch when put in difficult situations and limited the damage to a minuscule one run over 7 1/3 innings.
Moreover, the relievers — outside of Emilio Pagan and Trevor Rosenthal — were able to strike out at least one batter and walk no one in their inning of work. This allowed our best relief pitchers, Strahm, Johnson, Pomeranz, and Richards, to throw fifteen pitches or less. Such efficiency probably makes them available for Thursday’s game. Their success on Wednesday is a replica of what they were able to achieve after the trade deadline. Since the acquisition of Trevor Rosenthal, San Diego’s bullpen has looked like the one fans were expecting before the season began: one of the best in baseball. They showed why once again on Wednesday, and fans can likely expect the bullpen to be a strength in the remaining contests against St. Louis. If Zach Davies and San Diego’s Game 3 starter can hand it off to the bullpen with few runs allowed, the Padres should be in a great position to win the series.
The offense also had a solid day. Every spot in the lineup contributed whether by getting a hit or an RBI. In addition, the club drew walks nearly as much as they struck out with a 4:5 BB/K ratio. Even when the team was down 4-0 after the first, the Padres’ hitters still put up a fight, rallying to get a run across in each of the first three innings.
One area which they could have improved was in how many runners they left on base. For instance, Tatis Jr. struggled to drive his teammates in, leaving five runners on base. However, most of the batters only left one with Tatis Jr. (5), Pham (2), and Cronenworth (2) being outliers. This speaks to how a majority of the batters were able to get on base and manufacture runs when it mattered most. As for manufacturing runs, the Padres did not have to rely on the long ball as they did throughout 2020. During the season, Padres’ hitters pushed 95 runs across the plate, fourth in MLB. Their ability to score runs without the long ball is a good sign for future success. It means that San Diego does not depend on one guy to get lucky or get a perfect pitch.
Instead, the whole team is hitting reasonably well, and even if a few players do not contribute further, the team should still be in good shape because there will be enough good hitters left to get on base and drive in runs. In other words, San Diego should be able to keep scoring a bunch against the Cardinals. This is significant because the Cardinals are not an offensive-minded team, and yesterday’s seven-run effort was an aberration. Over the entirety of the 2020 season, St. Louis ranked 22nd in batting average, 27th in SLG, and 22nd in OPS+. If the Padres can score like they did on Wednesday, they should be able to win. Winning could also be easier since Cronenworth is unlikely to make the same mistakes that he did yesterday as a base runner.
Although Paddack failed the team, and much of the blame for the 7-4 loss can be placed on him, there were several positive developments for the Padres on Wednesday. The bullpen only gave up one more run after Paddack left. It kept San Diego in the game even though the game felt lost after the first and third innings. In addition, the Padres’ bats did not disappoint, scoring four runs and making fans believers in a comeback. These occurrences should give the team a positive outlook for Thursday’s contest and a potential Game 3 matchup.