SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres are currently in second place in the National League West and in a tight race with the Philadelphia Phillies for the second Wild Card spot, separated by only 1.5 games, while holding firm to the third and final playoff spot with a two-game lead.
The Padres have also set a new sellout record at Petco Park with 25 games, topping their inaugural year.
“It’s a great feeling,” Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth said on Saturday, “especially when you have your own crowd behind you.”
The only thing that is putting a damper on the Padres’ excitement this season is the continuing dominance of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite being in second place, the Padres are 20.5 games behind the Dodgers. The Houston Astros are the only other first place team with a double-digit divisional lead.
The Friars failed to win a series against the Dodgers for the eighth straight meeting after falling 11-2 on Sunday. The last time San Diego has won a series against Los Angeles was on June 21-23, 2021.
“We’re not playing bad,” Cronenworth said. “They’re obviously the team they are this year … so you can’t expect to sweep them. You’d like to. You’d like to get some wins and win a series, but when they’re playing like the way they are and pitching like the way they are it’s pretty tough.”
This is also the second straight season in which the Padres initially thought to have gained in the trade deadline failed to materialize. After losing Fernando Tatis Jr. for the season for various reasons, all of which self-inflicted, San Diego won the Juan Soto sweepstakes during the trade deadline. Soto was highly sought after hitting 20 home runs before the All-Star break, but has hit only four home runs and is batting measly .214 since the Midsummer Classic. Josh Bell was acquired alongside Soto, but has seemingly stopped hitting the moment he arrived to San Diego, going from hitting .301 in the first 103 games to .205 in the 35 games since the trade.
The starting rotation was supposed to rival the Dodgers after the spring training trade with Oakland for Sean Manaea, but he’s the only starter on the staff with an ERA above 5.00. The Padres swapped the second leading saves getter with the league leader in saves but since the trade, Josh Hader has given up 13 runs on 13 hits over 8.2 innings in 11 appearances and was swiftly moved off the closer’s role.
A big reason why the trade fails won’t sink their playoff chances this time around is Manny Machado. The star third baseman has been one of the few big contracts in baseball that is playing up to the price, leading the team with 28 home runs, 90 RBI, a .301 batting average and a .910 OPS.
The remaining schedule does nothing to ease the minds of the fan base. The Padres first travel to Seattle to face a Mariners team desperate to end the longest active playoff drought in baseball. Then they take on the young and feisty Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert before hosting the first place St. Louis Cardinals led by a legend in pursuit of history.
After a weekend series against the last place Rockies in the only stadium where they’re actually good, the Padres get one last chance to win a regular season series against the Dodgers. The struggling Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants round out the season. Whether or not the Padres escape September with a ticket to the postseason is anybody’s guess.
“We just want to start playing consistent baseball,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “We do it for a period of time, and then other times not so much. It’s more about us than anything else.”