SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are in.
And now comes the hard part.
The postseason begins Friday at Citi Field, where the Padres and Mets begin what figures to be a thriller of a three-game Wild Card Series.
“Now we’re past the season,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “We have a really good group of guys that I think have finally settled in here. I believe our best work is yet to come.”
Here's a look at some of the Padres’ most pressing postseason questions:
What might the postseason roster look like?
The Padres' lineup and rotation plans should be simple enough. But there are some interesting questions on the fringes of the team's playoff roster. And, in October, sometimes those role players can make all the difference.
The bench is thin and flawed. The Padres don't have a true left-handed-hitting weapon to use in a pinch-hit spot. Meanwhile, in the bullpen, the Padres must decide how many relievers to carry -- and whether they want to keep No. 5 starter Sean Manaea for long relief.
Here's one guess at how they'll line up:
C: Austin Nola, Jorge Alfaro, Luis Campusano
1B: Brandon Drury, Josh Bell
2B: Jake Cronenworth
SS: Ha-Seong Kim
3B: Manny Machado
OF: Juan Soto, Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, Trent Grisham, José Azocar
SP: Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Mike Clevinger
RP: Josh Hader, Luis García, Robert Suarez, Nick Martinez, Pierce Johnson, Tim Hill, Adrian Morejon, Steven Wilson, Craig Stammen
Whom will the Padres play?
Lock it in: With the Padres’ win over the Giants on Tuesday night, they earned the NL’s second Wild Card spot and a first-round date with the Mets. They went 4-2 against New York during the regular season, winning a pair of three-game series – one in San Diego in June and one in New York in July.
If the Padres were to beat the Mets, they’d meet the rival Dodgers in the NL Division Series. On the other side of the bracket, the Phillies will play the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series, with the winner facing the Braves. Were the Padres to reach the NL Championship Series, they’d face one of those three teams.
What is the postseason schedule?
Here's the schedule for the Padres' Wild Card Series against New York:
Game 1: Friday at 5:07 p.m. PT
Game 2: Saturday at 4:37 p.m. PT
Game 3: Sunday at 4:37 p.m. PT (if necessary and subject to change based on results in other series)
The winner of that series advances to the five-game Division Series, with the NLDS scheduled for Oct. 11-16, including an off-day on Oct. 13. (There would be no off-day between Games 4 and 5.)
For the full postseason schedule, click here.
How do the Padres align their pitching?
They would've partied for any clinch. But the fact that they were able to clinch with three days to spare should be extra cause for celebration. The Padres can now align their rotation as they wish for the Wild Card Series.
If the Padres were to advance to the NL Division Series, they could have Clevinger lined up to start Game 1. But if they could win the Wild Card Series in two games, they could save Musgrove for Game 1 before turning to Darvish on normal rest in Game 2.
Any injuries of note?
Knock on wood, but the Padres enter the postseason relatively healthy. They've been without relievers Austin Adams and Drew Pomeranz all season, so their absences don't particularly sting. Fernando Tatis Jr., serving his 80-game suspension after a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, is unavailable as well.
What decisions are left to be made?
Here are four important ones:
1. The Padres haven't locked in their postseason rotation just yet. As mentioned above, it would presumably be Darvish-Snell-Musgrove, but until those plans are finalized, it's a decision worth watching.
2. What happens at DH? The Padres’ lineup depth is troubling -- largely because Bell has struggled since his arrival via trade. If his struggles persist through the end of the season, would the Padres opt to start Wil Myers instead, saving Bell's switch-hit bat for a pinch-hitting role?
3. Who starts in center field? Trent Grisham has struggled at the plate all season, but lately his performance has dipped even further. The Padres have started the righty-hitting José Azocar against lefties. But it'll be interesting to see if he'd get the opportunity against some very tough right-handed pitching in the playoffs.
4. Josh Hader has reestablished himself as the closer, which gives the Padres plenty of options for the middle innings. But who gets the highest-leverage spots? Tim Hill has locked down his place as the go-to lefty. But the Padres will have some decisions to make from the right side. Robert Suarez, Luis García, Johnson and Nick Martinez are all vying for important playoff innings.