SD uses record 9 pitchers in shutout clinch

October 3rd, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- They didn't have their two aces. They used 26 pitchers to cover 27 innings. They fell behind by four runs when facing elimination.

No matter, the 2020 Padres persevere. It's what they do. On Friday, they persevered straight into the National League Division Series.

From 's first pitch to 's last, a beaten-down Padres pitching staff rose to the occasion on Friday in a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NL Wild Card Series at Petco Park. Nine members of the Padres’ bullpen pitched scoreless ball -- the most pitchers used in a nine-inning combined shutout since at least 1901, regular season or postseason.

“It took every guy on this roster to get it done,” said Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer. “Feels good to be moving on to the bubble in Texas.”

The win gave the Padres their first postseason series victory in 22 years -- and exorcised demons from three previous first-round exits to St. Louis.

Next up: The series they’ve wanted all year -- a best-of-five NLDS against the rival Dodgers in Arlington. They’ll have three days to try to knit their pitching staff back together before Game 1 on Tuesday.

Padres starting pitchers lasted a combined total of six innings in the Wild Card Series. Given the burden placed on the relief corps in Games 1 and 2, a bullpen day in Game 3 was a daunting proposition.

“What those guys did this series and then tonight -- wow,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “I don’t know what to say. They’ve been overworked. They’ve been overtaxed. … Man to man, everybody came up and said, ‘I’m good, give me the ball.’”

It was Stammen who got it first, making his first start in 10 years. The veteran reliever endured a regular season in which he posted a 5.63 ERA and became the subject of plenty of fans’ ire.

But Stammen is also the longest-tenured Padres pitcher, having signed as a Minor League free agent before the 2017 season. He’s revered in the San Diego clubhouse, particularly in the bullpen. Plus, he was fresh and had begun to piece things together during the season’s final few weeks.

“We had a ton of discussion,” Tingler said. “Just a ton of discussion. What’s the right move? You look at the numbers, you look at the analytics. At the end of the day, we banked on the man.”

Stammen set the tone with a quick first inning and two outs in the second, before his day was done. The procession of relievers began: , , , , , , , Rosenthal -- all zeros.

“We were just putting our arms around each other, we were fighting for each other,” Stammen said. “We feel like that group out there in the bullpen is one unit. It’s not 12, 13 guys. It’s one.”

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The Padres, of course, found themselves in such a predicament because they lost their two best starting pitchers the week before the postseason. They’re hopeful that Dinelson Lamet (right biceps tightness) and Mike Clevinger (right elbow impingement) might pitch again in October. But they weren’t healthy enough to crack the first-round roster.

“Those two guys are just phenomenal,” said catcher Austin Nola, who caught all 27 innings in the series. “But as soon as I came to this organization I realized how many good arms we have. They showed it for sure.”

Perhaps the wildest aspect of the Padres’ pitching plans on Friday was how flawlessly those plans unfurled. When you map out bullpen days, you inherently plan out contingencies. The Padres barely touched those contingencies.

It might have happened only once, when Morejon -- pitching on back-to-back days for the first time in his career -- began to fatigue in his second inning. Tingler called for Adams with two on and two outs in the fifth. The Padres had traded for Adams to get out tough righty hitters in big moments. Sure enough, he struck out Paul Goldschmidt to escape.

San Diego took the lead in the bottom of that inning on Hosmer’s RBI double. The Padres tacked on two more in the seventh, aided by a pair of defensive blunders. Jake Cronenworth added the exclamation point with a solo blast in the eighth.

When Rosenthal’s slider painted the outside corner to end it, the party was on. The Padres celebrated briefly around their dugout, then ambled toward the right-field area that is most visible to the balconies and rooftops beyond the outfield, in the heart of downtown San Diego.

Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jurickson Profar waved a flag emblazoned with the No. “10” -- for the 10th man, the Padres’ fans in San Diego. An image of a cake appeared on the Petco Park videoboard. It remained there for the next hour or so, as car horns and air horns blared into the night.

“We definitely feel their energy,” Hosmer said. “It’d be nothing sweeter than to see this place sold out, to see the fans going crazy, to see good baseball being played in San Diego at Petco Park.

“I know it’s unfortunate they can’t be in the stadium. But we definitely feel their energy. We can feel the good vibes coming from them. That’s who we play for at the end of the day. We’re playing to bring a championship back here.”

They’re 11 wins away.