Padres clinch home field in Wild Card Series

September 26th, 2020

It's official: The Padres’ first postseason series in 14 years will take place at Petco Park.

Despite their 5-4 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Oracle Park, the Padres clinched home-field advantage in the Wild Card Series on Friday night, with the Cardinals' 3-0 loss in the first game of their doubleheader against Milwaukee. That result ensures that the Padres will finish as the highest-ranked second-place team in the National League, locking them into the No. 4 seed.

It was the last remaining goal on the Padres' agenda for the regular season, and they ticked it off just after they took the field for their own doubleheader in San Francisco. Still, manager Jayce Tingler noted an urgency to finish strong. The Friars might not have anything left to play for, but they’ve lost six of eight and are looking to rekindle their form from late August and early September.

“The last thing you want to do is be limping in going into a huge set,” Tingler said. “So maintaining some rhythm and timing, making sure we're sharp, making sure we're crisp. At the same time, we're also doing everything in our power to make sure we're healthy, make sure we're good to go. It's a fine balance.”

Game 1 of the Wild Card Series is slated for Wednesday, with game time still to be determined. The Padres’ opponent remains unclear, with the Marlins, Cardinals and Reds all in play for the No. 5 spot. After splitting their doubleheader with Milwaukee, the Cardinals held the edge, by percentage points.

The Padres, of course, had aimed to dethrone the Dodgers in the National League West. But they set two other goals, and they accomplished both.

They secured their postseason spot on Sunday with a win over the Mariners. Then, they locked up home-field advantage for the three-game Wild Card Series on Friday.

Their first-round opponent will theoretically be tougher, but the result is the same as if they'd chased down Los Angeles: If the two clubs advance past the first round, they'd be headed for what figures to be a thrilling NL Division Series in Arlington, Texas.

In order to get there, the Padres first need to do something they’ve never done: Win a playoff game at Petco Park. (Two, in fact.) The downtown San Diego ballpark opened in 2004 and hosted NLDS games in ‘05 and ‘06.

Those games, of course, weren’t played amid the backdrop of a pandemic, and star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. lamented the fact that a playoff-starved fanbase would be unable to bask in the postseason.

“I feel they deserve to be there with us,” Tatis said. “It’s going to be a moment. I mean, the Padres haven’t been there in 14 years. I feel like they deserve it, but I know we’re just going to keep playing hard for them, and we’re definitely going to miss them.”

Paddack scuffles

The Padres still aren’t sure whether they’ll have Mike Clevinger available for the Wild Card Series. , who would presumably slide into Clevinger’s place in the rotation, had a chance to offer some reassurance Friday night.

But Paddack, making his final start of the regular season, left much to be desired. He allowed five runs on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings, including a two-run shot to Mike Yastrzemski that ended his day in the fourth. It marked the end of a disappointing follow-up to his excellent rookie campaign.

"That's just not how I wanted to end the regular season for Year No. 2," Paddack said. "There were a lot of things that I've got to put behind me. Because when October comes around, everybody starts with the same record, and all the pitchers have an 0-0 record. I have to be able to clear my mind. The regular season's behind us. I have to get ready for Sept. 30, the Wild Card."

If Paddack pitches in the Wild Card Series, it’s more likely he takes the ball on Oct. 2 for a decisive Game 3. But the Padres haven’t named a rotation, and Paddack hasn’t cemented that place just yet. Or has he?

“That's probably the funniest thing everyone keeps saying, I keep reading,” Paddack said when asked about his place in the team’s postseason plans. “Y'all are crazy if you don't think I'm going to be on the playoff roster.”

Electric slide

Speaking of the playoff roster, was a late arrival, but he’s making a serious case.

Acquired at the Trade Deadline in the deal that also sent Austin Nola and Dan Altavilla from the Mariners to the Padres, Adams was activated on Sunday after missing most of the season due to left knee surgery.

He’s since shown why the Padres were so eager to acquire him: a practically untouchable slider.

Adams faced five hitters on Friday, retiring all of them and striking out three. He threw a total of 18 pitches -- 16 of which were sliders. The Giants swung at 10 of those sliders and whiffed on seven.

“He settled down and threw the ball really well,” Tingler said. “And obviously his slider played.”