Tatis had plenty of help en route to NLDS

5 things we learned about the Friars in the Wild Card Series

October 4th, 2020

Fourth time’s the charm.

After three first-round exits at the hands of the Cardinals, the Padres finally returned the favor, winning their National League Wild Card Series two games to one.

Here are five things we learned from a three-game set that was equal parts grueling and exhilarating:

1. Tatis is up for the moment
sure didn't look like a 21-year-old making his first postseason appearance.

The shortstop phenom came to the plate 14 times, and he reached base in eight of them, including two homers Thursday and a crucial double Friday in the decisive Game 3.

Tatis did make what could have been a costly throwing error on Friday, but he also made a pair of spectacular plays at shortstop.

"First time in the playoffs," Tatis said. "You're going to feel that spark inside you, no matter what."

2. Crucial rotation decisions loom
It remains unclear whether (right elbow impingement) and (right biceps tightness) will be available for the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. Regardless of their status, the Padres' rotation has some serious question marks.

and combined to allow eight runs in 4 1/3 innings in their two starts this week. Davies has earned himself a second chance because of his excellent regular season and two quality starts against the Dodgers.

Paddack, meanwhile, was roughed up by Los Angeles on Aug. 13, allowing six runs, including three homers, in three innings. Since then, Paddack has made eight starts with a 5.80 ERA. After Paddack's Game 1 start against St. Louis, Padres manager Jayce Tingler indicated Paddack would get another if the Padres advanced.

"He doesn’t need to be left with that," Tingler said. "We need to get him the ball again."

That's still only two rotation spots filled. If Lamet and Clevinger remain sidelined, it's worth wondering whether and/or would get another look in a starting capacity. They were excellent out of the bullpen in the Wild Card Series. But the Padres' bullpen is already extraordinarily deep. The rotation might be where they're needed most.

3. Nola is just what the Padres needed
Remember when the Padres had to decide between an excellent defender (Austin Hedges) and a high-upside bat ( )?

They found both in .

Acquired from Seattle just before the Trade Deadline, Nola was the unsung hero of the Padres' Wild Card Series victory. He caught 13 different pitchers and extracted the most out of them behind the plate. Players and staff raved about his performance.

"He's an impressive man, can take in a whole lot of information and I love him to death," said Padres right-hander . "He's a wall back there and gives us so much confidence when we're pitching to him. He's made us such a great team."

Don't discount what Nola does at the plate, either. He went hitless in the Wild Card Series. But he walked three times Thursday in the come-from-behind Game 2 win, routinely wearing out opposing pitchers. He was on base for both of Tatis' home runs.

4. Moreland and Pham are back
The Padres finally got the offense they've been waiting for this season, because they finally got big-time contributions from and .

The two veterans struggled after landing in San Diego via trade. Pham arrived in the offseason but dealt with a handful of injuries and posted just a .624 OPS. Moreland came over at the Deadline and notched a .609 mark.

Yet Pham started all three games against St. Louis and went 6-for-13. Moreland started the final two and was 3-for-6 while frustrating the Cardinals’ two righty starters.

After the Game 3 victory, first baseman had huge praise to offer for Pham, who returned from left hamate bone surgery in mid-September. Hosmer indicated that Pham probably wasn't yet back to full strength but he desperately wanted to find a groove before the postseason.

"He comes back at the end of the regular season, gets at-bats in, sacrifices his numbers during the regular season to be ready for the postseason, comes out against his old team and was just barreling all types of balls," Hosmer said. "He really stepped up for us this series, had a lot of big knocks. It just shows the character of all these guys. These guys know what's on the line."

5. The bench might be reworked
The emergence of Pham and Moreland means assumes a spot on the bench against right-handed pitching. He's quite useful in that role.

"Outfield, infield, switch-hitting, good baserunner -- it gives us some flexibility late in a game," Tingler said.

But the rest of the Padres’ bench might need restructuring. San Diego used only 10 offensive players against St. Louis, with , , and on the sideline all series.

As the backup catcher, Castro still has a spot. Mateo, as a pinch-running threat, probably has one, too. But there are no pinch-hitting opportunities in the Padres' lineup right now. The Padres seem content to ride with their starting nine, plus Profar.

Knowing that, team decision-makers will mull whether the final bench spot or two would be better spent on pitching depth.