The San Diego Padres’ postseason run came to an end last Thursday. With a 12–3 win, the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Padres in the National League Divisional Series.
Granted, this wasn’t an entirely unexpected result. The Padres’ top two pitchers were out with injuries, making every game devolve into a bullpen game. In game 3, the team managed to set a record for the most pitchers (11) used in a nine-inning game. While the pitching struggled, the Padres bats — which had carried the team through the regular season — failed to make up the difference. And most importantly, the Dodgers are the Dodgers, the best team in MLB. Even if the Padres were at full strength, it would have been a tough series to win.
The sweep by the Dodgers brings the season to a disheartening close, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a great season for the Padres. This is the best Padres team in nearly a decade. The Friars went 37–23, the second-best record in the National League — second only to the Dodgers, of course. They broke a 14-year playoff drought and won their wild card series 2–1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
They turned the San Diego Padres into the Slam Diego Padres. Off the bats of Fernando Tatís Jr., Manny Machado, Wil Myers, and Eric Hosmer, the team set an MLB record for the most consecutive games with grand slams. Tatís especially had a fantastic season. El Niño hit .277/.366/.571 and tied for fourth in home runs with 17 out-of-the-park swings. Machado was right behind Tatís, hitting .304/.370/.580 with 16 homers. But this wasn’t a stars-and-scrubs team. All across the lineup, the Padres were producing. Jurickson Profar put together a solid season, and Jake Cronenworth put together a season worthy of NL Rookie of the Year.
The Friars’ issues on the mound were in full focus during their playoff run, but they have more young talent developing to fill the gap. Luis Patiño got time as a reliever this year. Ryan Weathers became only the second pitcher in MLB history to debut in the postseason, going right from Single-A ball to the NLDS. MacKenzie Gore, the Padres’ top pitching prospect, will likely move up to the majors next season.
The Dodgers remain the Goliath of the NL West, but the Padres are starting to nip at their heels. The Padres-Dodger rivalry is heating up, and it already has a bit of drama, with a heated Machado protesting Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol’s celebration of Cody Bellinger’s homer-stealing catch in game 2. Both teams will be contenders in the NL West next season and will likely see each other many more times in the regular and postseasons.
For now, the Padres are headed back to San Diego, but they are by no means done. Coming off their first postseason berth since 2006, and with a young squad stacked with potential, there’s little doubt: next season, they’ll be back.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Padres