Padres staring at tough climb to playoffs

August 24th, 2023

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If the Padres are still going to make something out of this season, it’s no secret what needs to happen next.

“It will take a lot of wins,” said Xander Bogaerts. “I can tell you that.”

“From here on out, every game is do or die,” added Manny Machado.

Indeed, the Padres are going to have to spend the rest of the season playing the type of baseball they haven’t played at any point yet this year. They’re going to need to spend the final 6 1/2 weeks playing well above .600 ball to even sniff a playoff spot -- a pace they haven’t sustained at any point this year.

That fact has led plenty of people around the baseball world to write off the Padres entirely. Perhaps fairly. But the Padres insist that just because they haven’t done it yet, doesn’t mean they won’t.

“Just keep believing,” Machado said. “Keep doing the little things that count and, honestly, just believe in each other.”

The reality is: The Padres probably shouldn’t even have the opportunity they currently have. But they’ve been handed a lifeline while some other teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race have struggled. In a way, that makes their own struggles even more infuriating. But they’ve also been kept afloat, somewhat miraculously, sitting six games back entering play on Thursday.

To be clear: That’s a massive gap to make up with 34 games remaining, and even more so with four teams they’d need to jump. But it’s not insurmountable. Two years ago, the Cardinals were six games back in mid-August. Then, they reeled off a major winning streak and comfortably reached the postseason -- at the Padres’ expense.

“It’s daunting,” manager Bob Melvin said after Wednesday’s victory. “But ... it’s still doable. But we’re later on in the season. We know we have to win series, we have to win games, we have to put together a streak. Hopefully that’s coming soon.”

Hasn’t come yet. The Padres remain the only team in Major League Baseball without a winning streak of at least four games this season, which is downright baffling for a team with this level of talent on its roster.

“If we want to get to where we want to get to, we’ve got to play better,” Machado said. “We’ve got to do our stuff, and handle our business. We don’t do that, it’s going to be tough.”

Objectively speaking, it already is. But while the challenge ahead may be tough, the Padres remain alive on the very fringes of the playoff race. For now, at least, they’re choosing to cling to that hope.