San Diego Padres: Playing the role of spoiler

dcalkins
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09: Wil Myers
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09: Wil Myers /
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Despite their record, the San Diego Padres are still a force to be reckoned with. Just ask the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Since a winning season has been out of the question for months, playing spoiler would send the young Padres into the off-season on a high note. Although the team has the misfortune of playing in the toughest division in baseball, that makes each win against the contending Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies even more impressive.

Aside from a bizarre two game series in Minnesota, the remainder of the Padres’ games will be played in the division, giving the local team a chance to mess up momentum. Arizona came into the series against the Padres on a 13-game winning streak, including a sweep of Colorado and LA. San Diego stopped the streak in an interminable slugfest in Chase Field, a venue that has been particularly unkind to the Padres.

More astonishing, in the second game the Padres entered the top of the ninth inning down 7-2 and scored six runs. In the bottom of the inning, the D-backs loaded the bases against Brad Hand, but he managed to keep all three from scoring.

Last year Arizona signed Zack Greinke to a six-year $206.5 million contract and expected to ride him to a playoff berth but instead floundered with a 69-93 record. Heads rolled, of course, including that of general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale. The Diamondbacks also relieved Tony La Russa of his position as chief baseball officer, but he stayed with the organization. However this year Arizona has rebounded with a record of 82-60 and leads the National League wild card race followed by Colorado, which is five games back.

The front running Dodgers had looked absolutely unstoppable until their recent swoon. L.A. has a winning record in each month until September, including an awe-inspiring 20-3 in July. Several players rank at the top in offensive numbers including Justin Turner’s .328 batting average, Cody Bellinger’s 36 home runs and 83 RBI, and Corey Seager’s 144 hits.

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Seager had been out of the lineup with an elbow injury for 10 games (a streak in which the Dodgers won only one game) but has now returned. The Dodgers’ rough patch began in a losing series against the Brewers in August and continued with a sweep at the hands of the D-backs, a 1-3 trip to San Diego and another sweep by Arizona.  They have lost the first three games in a four-game series at home against the Rockies.

As for the Rockies’ success, reporters covering the team give much of the credit to new manager Bud Black (the guy a vocal segment of Padres’ fans couldn’t wait to get out of town). Under Black Colorado has had the best start through 100 games since the team’s inception. According to Ryan Koenigsberg of BSNDenver, “Bud Black has the Rockies having fun and playing loose, but don’t you dare get that confused with some sort of lax attitude.”

Next: Beating LA and other signs of progress

At this point in the season, each of the contenders has a winning record against San Diego: Diamondbacks (9-6), Rockies (8-4), Dodgers (10-6). The Padres have almost run out of time to change any of the three records to the win column, but chipping away will affect the standings in the division and should give the young players an extra dose of confidence about their ability to play with the big boys. If the Padres can’t be winners, at least the team can take satisfaction in being a spoiler.

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