Saturday, April 1, 2023

Padres clinch second playoff berth since 2006 as NL wild card picture gains clarity


For the second time since 2006 and the first in a 162-game season over that span, the San Diego Padres are heading to the playoffs. The Padres clinched the seventh playoff berth in franchise history on Sunday after the Milwaukee Brewers lost an extra-inning contest to the Miami Marlins

The breakthrough season with this group happened in 2020, the year Slam Diego was born. They went 37-23 in the regular season and advanced past the wild card round before being swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. They faced high expectations in 2021 and appeared on track to making the playoffs. They were even in first place in late May. On Aug. 10, they were firmly a playoff team but went 12-34 the rest of the way, a tailspin that cost manager Jayce Tingler his job. 

New manager Bob Melvin took over for the ride in 2022 and the Padres avoided a collapse. Since Sept. 15, they’ve gone 9-5. (They were trailing the White Sox as of publication time.) Along the way, they’ve dealt with plenty of adversity. Fernando Tatis Jr., a 2021 MVP candidate and the face of the franchise in the spring, suffered an offseason injury that cost him a majority of the season. He then tested positive for PED, leaving him for the entirety of the 2022 season. 

In Tatis’ stead, Manny Machado has picked up the slack, putting together an MVP-caliber season. Ha-Seong Kim has proven valuable in filling in at shortstop, too. The starting rotation behind the likes of Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell has been a strength. General manager A.J. Preller made the big splash of the season, adding superstar Juan Soto ahead of the trade deadline, also adding All-Stars Josh Bell and Josh Hader in addition to Brandon Drury

Things haven’t been smooth, but they’ve had plenty of high points and there’s enough talent here to make a run deep into October if everything breaks right. For now, the Padres can celebrate. They are playoff bound in a full season for the first time in quite a while. 

The Brewers’ loss, in concert with a Philadelphia Phillies win, means that the Phillies’ magic number is now down to one with three to play. 

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