After a brutal end to July, which featured seven losses in a row, the Padres have rebooted. They split a series in Chicago against the Cubs, then won series against the Brewers and Phillies. All three teams have winning records and legitimate chances to make the playoffs.
Although the Padres were swept by the Angels, another team with a statistical chance at a Wild Card berth, the Padres still have the opportunity to play spoiler in the last month and a half of the season. Except for series against the Reds and Rangers, fellow bottom feeders, San Diego will face contending teams: the Diamondbacks (nine games), Rockies (seven games), Dodgers (five games), Mariners (four games) and Giants (six games).
Aside from the Padres, every team in the National League West can still hold on to a ray of hope for at least one playoff game. So far, the home team has a losing record against each division rival: 3-7 against the D-Backs, 5-7 against the Rockies, 4-9 against the Dodgers, and 5-8 against the Giants. The Padres will have ample opportunity to even the head-to-head records against division rivals, teams San Diego absolutely must play well against to have any success now or in the future.
The Padres did have the good fortune of facing an Angels’ team missing their star center fielder, Mike Trout, because of right wrist inflammation. At 62-60 in fourth place, the Angels will have to get Trout back and climb over two other teams to make the playoffs, but haven’t given up hope yet.
After facing the Angels, the Padres will play four games against the Diamondbacks at home. In a very tight race in the National League West, the D-Backs (66-55) are in first place with only one and a half games separating them from the Rockies and the Dodgers. Paul Goldschmidt’s lackluster beginning to the season has faded into a distant memory, and he has 26 home runs and an OBP of .389. Pitchers Zack Godley and Zack Greinke have 13 and 12 wins respectively, and former Padre Brad Boxberger has 26 saves.
Following this homestand, the Padres go on the road and face the Rockies (64-56) in Coors Field, a house of horrors for pitchers, probably even more so for rookie pitchers. Despite pitching “on the moon,” as broadcaster Ted Leitner is fond of saying, Kyle Freeland (10 wins), Jon Gray (148 strikeouts), and Wade Davis (32 saves), among other Rockies’ pitchers, have performed way beyond expectations. The offense, as usual, has not been a problem, especially with Nolan Arenado’s 30 home runs, .390 OBP, and 84 RBI.
In the meantime, the Dodgers (65-57, in third place) have fallen apart since closer Kenley Jansen ended up on the disabled list with a recurrence of a heart problem. L.A. has lost five games in a row, four thanks to bullpen implosions. Former starting pitchers like Kenta Maeda have expressed unhappiness with bullpen assignments and pitched accordingly. Frustrations boiled over in a Giants 2-1 victory Tuesday night when Yasiel Puig (the quintessential five-tool player with a 10-cent head) picked a fight with former Padre catcher Nick Hundley.
The Giants (61-61) have used the Dodgers to solidify their prospects of climbing up the standings out of fourth place. Only 5.5 games separate the first and fourth place teams in the division with San Diego (48-75) planted firmly in last place and 19 games back. The Giants’ ace, Madison Bumgarner, returned from a broken hand in early June and has posted a 4-4 record with 2.71 ERA and 1.27 WHIP since then. As usual, catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford can be counted on offensively and defensively.
Obviously, every other team in the division has motivation to play all out until the very last game. In the meantime, Padres players have to be motivated by the “waves of talent” reported to be on their way, and many are playing for their futures in San Diego. But playing spoiler, especially in the National League West, would certainly be a confidence (and career) booster for the guys on this roster.