Morning Coffee with Mark Whelan: Do the Padres Still Have a Shot at the Playoffs?


Call me crazy. But I think the Padres still have a shot at the playoffs this year.

They’ve won four straight games. They’ve got a little momentum going. They’re starting a 3-games series tonight against the Giants, who are 5-17 in their last 22 games. San Fran has the worst record in baseball since June 9. And Odrisamer Despaigne and Jesse Hahn are pitching in this series. In the other game, the Padres are going up against Matt Cain, who has only won one game all year. So if they can sweep this series, then they are looking at 7 straight wins, and only six games under .500.

Then the Friars go on the road to Coors Field to play the Rockies. If any team is colder than the Giants, it’s the Rockies. They’re 2-14 over their last 16 games. They’ve given up 113 runs in those 16 games, an average of over 7 runs a game. And while they’ve had the best offense in baseball this year, they have cooled off considerably, scoring only 27 runs in their last 7 games, and 10 of those came in a single game. In the second game of that series, the Padres will face Jair Jurrjens. You read that right. The same Jair Jurrjens who used to be good, then was so bad, that he was out of baseball two years after putting up a 2.96 ERA in 2011. The Reds finally took a chance and signed him to a minor league contract, then traded him this week to the Rockies for a non-prospect first baseman. The point is, that’s how bad Colorado’s pitching is right now. It is as bad as the Padres’ offense has been. But the Padres have been finding a way to win lately, while Colorado is swooning. So the Pads take two of three in this series.

The final series before the All-Star Break is the Dodgers on the road. Hahn, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross going against Haren, Beckett, and Ryu. Tough series. But the team is on a high, winning 9 of their last 10, and they’ll manage to win two games in this series, too.

So now they’re sitting at the All-Star break with a 45-49 record, in third place, 6 or 7 games back in the division. Andrew Cashner comes back after the break, Eric Stults is out of the rotation, and now they’re heading into the second half with a rotation of Cashner, Ross, Hahn, Kennedy, and Despaigne. I like our odds against any team with that rotation.

The first two series after the break are against the Mets and Cubs, two teams with worse records than San Diego. 5-1 against those patsies, and they’re at .500 with 50 wins and 50 losses. The surge has the front office reconsidering the fire sale, and instead only a few key trades are made – Chase Headley goes to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson, who flourishes in his return to the NL West, and adds some much needed left-handed pop to the lineup. Everth Cabrera is traded to the Orioles, who have a complete lack of speed, for J.J. Hardy, who steps into the fifth spot in the order and gives San Diego some of that 25-homer power he’s known for.

Carlos Quentin, who hit six homers in the final nine games before the break, goes to Kansas City for raw but tremendously talented Single-A OF prospect Bubba Starling. Tommy Medica tears it up as the left fielder, and somehow, some way, the other hitters actually start to return to their career levels. Granted, they’re not the Big Red Machine, but with the pitching staff, they don’t have to be.

Jedd Gyorko gets the boot off, and we find out it was the plantar fasciitis holding him back all year. He slides into the cleanup spot, and finishes with 20 bombs over the last 62 games. The Padres go 38-24 over the final 62 games, finish at 88-74, and grab the fifth and final playoff spot.

It’s as easy as that.