SAN DIEGO – The Padres are postseason bound. And this time, the city of San Diego gets to celebrate right along with them.
With the Brewers’ extra-innings loss to the Marlins on Sunday afternoon, San Diego secured its place in the 2022 postseason — even before wrapping up a weekend series against the White Sox.
The Padres will play Game 1 of a three-game NL Wild Card Series on Friday — on the road against either the Braves, Mets or Cardinals.
It marks the Padres’ seventh trip to the playoffs and their first in a full 162-game season since 2006. It’s the first time they’ve gotten to celebrate a clinch in front of fans at Petco Park since ’05. Of course, they clinched at home in ’20, but amid a pandemic-shortened slate, they celebrated amongst themselves in an empty stadium.
“It was definitely different in ’20,” second baseman Jake Cronenworth said on Saturday night. “A 60-game season, no fans — it was kind of just us. To do it in front of the home crowd would be really special.”
He didn’t have to wait very long. It took mere hours for the Padres to secure their place as one of three Wild Cards in the National League. All that’s left to play for is seeding. If the Padres finish ahead of Philadelphia, they would make a trip east to either New York or Atlanta as the No. 5 seed. If they were to fall behind the Phillies (who currently sit 1 1/2 games back but own the tiebreaker over San Diego), the Padres would face the NL Central-champion Cardinals in the first round.
But first there’s the small matter of celebrating a playoff berth. The Padres know firsthand just how difficult that can be. A year ago, they sat 17 games above .500 in early August, only to finish 79-83 — a collapse that chairman Peter Seidler deemed “once in a century.”
The Padres vowed not to make the same mistakes — and they set about constructing a roster that wouldn’t. Manager Jayce Tingler was dismissed after the season, along with other changes in the front office. The Padres spent the offseason ensuring they had the requisite pitching depth to withstand the rigors of a playoff run. (They learned that lesson the hard way in 2021.)
But the biggest change? Bob Melvin in the manager’s chair. It’s been a roller-coaster of a 2022 season. The Padres endured their share of struggles, particularly on offense. They overhauled their roster at the Trade Deadline. They essentially dealt with the loss of superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. twice — first, at the start of the season when it was revealed he’d broken his left wrist, then again when, on the verge of returning, Tatis was suspended for 80 games because of a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug. Through it all, Melvin steered a steady ship.
Early in the season, the Padres rode their deep rotation, plus an MVP-caliber performance from Manny Machado. But it soon became clear the offense needed reinforcements, and they arrived at the Trade Deadline in the form of Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury.
In the end, the Padres staved off Milwaukee’s push with three days to spare — an important fact because it allows them some time to set their playoff rotation. In a Wild Card Series, they’d presumably align Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove — and probably in that order.
They have some lineup, bullpen and roster questions to answer. But for now, those can wait. The Padres – and their city – have some celebrating to do.