Heading into the Padres first postseason appearance since 2006, here are three questions to watch when the series begins.
On Sunday, the Padres learned their fate as well as their opponent in their first postseason appearance since 2006. As previously noted, the Cardinals were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, having to schedule multiple doubleheaders to get as close as possible to finishing all 60 games.
The Padres took three-of-four in the final series of the year, knocking out the Giants from postseason consideration in the process. The Padres and Cardinals will clash on Wednesday in a best of three series with all three games, if necessary, played at Petco Park.
Leading into the matchup, here are three questions to monitor once the series gets underway.
1. Is Dinelson Lamet healthy?
Arguably the best starter on the Padres ball club this year, Dinelson Lamet left his last start after 3.2 innings with bicep tightness. He motioned for the trainer to come out after feeling a pinch in his throwing arm, which is exactly what put Mike Clevinger’s postseason hopes in doubt. Lamet will be in Cy Young consideration for year-end awards, but at the moment, the Padres need him to make a deep postseason run.
Aside from Zach Davies, who do you trust in the rotation? A case can be made that Chris Paddack should be left off the roster or, at the very least, moved to the bullpen. He had a rough sophomore year, and he’ll need to develop another pitch in the offseason, if he wants to stay in the rotation long-term.
Lamet will get the ball in Game 1 and a strong outing will have Padres fans breathing a sigh of relief.
2. What version of the Padres offense will show up?
Even before the Padres clinched a postseason berth, the team’s offense was streaky at best. Certainly, having their series with the Giants postponed, during the middle of their five-game winning streak, halted any momentum they had.
But Fernando Tatis Jr. went into a terrible slump. Over a 60-game slate, those slumps are magnified but can be managed under normal circumstances. Prior to the last couple of weeks, the Padres offense was so good all year long, highlighted by multiple grand slams. The pitching matchups haven’t been released yet, but one could guess that San Diego will have to face either Wainwright or Flaherty in the first game. The offense will need to be consistent and come through with timely hits.
3. Can the Padres finish games?
The addition of Trevor Rosenthal at the trade deadline was one of the more underrated moves. He’s been steady in place of Kirby Yates and, briefly, Emilio Pagan. The latter dealt with bicep injuries of his own, but he returned looking like the players that the Padres traded for during the offseason.
I don’t expect Craig Stammen to make the postseason roster, which should mitigate bullpen meltdowns, but I think we all expected the Padres bullpen to be virtually unhittable. That was far from the case, and general manager AJ Preller made a flurry of moves at the deadline to shore up the back end of the ‘pen with a sneaky-good addition in Austin Adams. The Padres will need to hand the ball over to their bullpen and expect the group to lock down a lead.