SAN DIEGO -- By now, the Padres can stop worrying about the teams chasing them in the National League West and start focusing solely on the team in front of them -- the team they’ve spent the last decade chasing.
The Dodgers come to town for a three-game series beginning Monday night.
The Padres erased any questions about their postseason chops, sweeping the Rockies and Giants in consecutive series this week. It culminated with a 3-1, seven-inning victory over San Francisco in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon at Petco Park. Mike Clevinger had gone the distance for a 6-0 win in Game 1.
The sweep moved San Diego 7.5 games ahead of the Giants for the second automatic playoff spot -- with only 12 games to play. Afterward, manager Jayce Tingler came as close as he has all season to acknowledging what should be obvious already: The Padres are playoff-bound.
“Everybody’s just excited for the opportunities ahead,” Tingler said. “If we can continue to improve and continue to play good baseball -- obviously getting into the playoffs, that’s phase one of what we’ve set out to do.”
Not to be lost in the Padres’ October aspirations: Sunday’s doubleheader marked something of a milestone. San Diego has now assured itself of a winning record for the first time since 2010. That fact caused Wil Myers -- the longest-tenured Padre -- to break into an ear-to-ear smile.
“This is definitely the most fun and best team I've been on in my career,” Myers said. “It's a lot of fun coming to the ballpark every day with this team and knowing what we're capable of.”
That’s what makes this week’s series against Los Angeles so intriguing. Since the Dodgers began their run of seven straight division titles, this is by far the best team San Diego has had to offer. The two NL West rivals have met seven times this year, with the Dodgers holding a 4-3 edge.
The Dodgers own a 2 1/2-game lead over the Padres in the division, though both teams appear destined to host a three-game Wild Card Series. Record-wise they’re the two best teams in the NL.
“Obviously, everybody knows this is a big series against the team that’s at the top of the division,” Myers said. “But if you look over and worry about the other uniform, you won’t be able to play as well or execute your plan. For us coming in tomorrow, it’s another game where we’ll go out here and beat the other team that’s there.”
Myers has been one of the driving forces behind the Padres’ current seven-game winning streak. He’s 8-for-24 during that stretch, and he tacked on his 12th homer of the season in Game 2 on Sunday -- a 405-foot blast to straightaway center field.
After Rosenthal notched his 10th save, Tingler downplayed the importance of finishing above .500.
“Our mind’s not in that place,” he said. “... We’re just trying to keep improving. We still believe our best ball is ahead.”
That’s not to say Tingler couldn’t at least appreciate the accomplishment.
“It’s really hard to win up here,” he added. “Our guys are doing a good job right now playing winning baseball.”
Indeed, for the first time in a decade, the Padres are a winning baseball team.
But they’ve got bigger ambitions this year -- starting Monday night with a three-game set against their primary NL West rivals.