Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Talkin playoff baseball...but for how long?

Unfortunately, my lengthy absence and spotty contributions have put me way behind on my posting. So let me summarize posts I "would" have made regarding the San Diego Padres:

"Yea! My guys won the NL West. As I predicted!"

"Just because they got in with an 82-80 record doesn't mean they don't deserve to be in the playoffs."

"St. Louis is what I call a 'professional team,' not only do they have all the right components, they execute. Therefore it's going to be very hard for a team like San Diego which a) doesn't have all the right components, and b) rarely executes, to beat St. Louis. But perhaps they can get sterling performances out of Jake Peavy and get a circa 1998 Sterling Hitchcock-like performance out of Pedro Astascio or Adam Eaton and catch lightning in a bottle."

Well, that last post would have been feeling pretty good through about 2 1/2 innings in yesterday's Game 1 in St. Louis. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter was laboring. Couldn't consistently get his overhand curve into the strike zone. The pesky Pads were getting on-base. Just doing their usual routine of blowing opportunities. Peavy was cruising. Except for an amazing Jim Edmonds opposite-field homer off of a good pitch, the Pads looked like they had a chance to get Carpenter out of the game which would have been a key to victory.

But then in the third, the Cards started dinking and dunking and things (possibly including the Padres' season) started unraveling. With the bases loaded after a soft single, a double and an intentional walk, Peavy faced Larry Walker. Peavy suddenly uncorked an awkward looking wild pitch. In delivering the ball, the young hurler appeared to lose his balance or stumble and the ball bounced wildly in front of home plate and then bounded over catcher Ramon Hernandez's glove. David Eckstein scored from third. To the casual observer, it looked like the young Peavy was suffering from a case of the yips. Walker was intentionally walked and then Reggie Sanders delivered a hard shot to first which should have been smothered by Mark Sweeney. Instead, the ball ricocheted off the base into shallow right field and two more runs were plated. The Cards lead 4-0 and most Padres fans could already sense that the nails were being hammered into the coffin, since this is rarely a team that can overcome two run deficits, much less against a professional team like St. Louis.

Yet with Peavy on the mound...maybe the Pads could hold the Cardinals in check. But after the wild pitch, Peavy looked rattled. He was a different pitcher. This was not the laser-like Jake Peavy I know. I attributed his decreased velocity and bad location to a young guy feeling playoff pressure. He had made an embarrassing and costly wild pitch in his first career playoff performance. Perhaps it was too much to place on the kid's shoulders, after all, every commentator had said that the Friars' only chance against the heavily-favored Cards was if the 23 year-old won two games. *Gulp* In the fifth, Cardinal-powered dinking and dunking started with an Edmonds single off of Peavy's knee and an Albert Pujols soft single to right. Another intentional walk loaded the bases for former Padre Reggie Sanders, who promptly hit a grand slam. Peavy was done. And so was San Diego.

After putting a couple of single runs on the board in the 7th and 8th innings, San Diego showed some signs of life, by rallying for three runs against St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen. In fact, the Padres actually brought the tying run to the plate when Ramon Hernandez waved at three consecutive balls to end the game with the Friars on the short end of a stinging 8-5 defeat. Of course, that could have been 8-6 were it not for third base coach Rob Picciolo's bone-headed decision to hold Mark Loretta at third when Larry Walker was willing to concede the run. But Picciolo's Head on a Stick (which I've been calling for since July) is for another post. A loss is a loss.

But the bigger story out of Game 1 is the loss of Peavy for the season due to a couple of fractured ribs. While the details are still a bit sketchy, it appears that Peavy initially injured his ribs in the post-clinch celebration melee last week at Petco Park. He apparently kept his injury on the QT and no x-rays were ordered. Peavy then apparently aggravated the injury on the wild pitch in the third. Most commentators believe this spells the end for San Diego. I'll admit I didn't think my guys had much chance against St. Louis anyway. In my opinion, the Cards are the best team in baseball, and my team's inability to execute, coupled with Bruce Bochy's lineups have made this club downright maddening. Peavy was a potential equalizer. But he's gone. So the odds of a turnaround now appear even more remote.

Nonetheless, I'm not willing to completely write the Pads off. They won the season series against the Redbirds. They have some never-say-die veterans like Brian Giles, Eric Young, Mark Sweeney, Robert Fick, Trevor Hoffman, Woddy Williams and others. They could string something together. It could be a sweep. Likely will be. Or maybe the Padres will bear down, play for pride and surprise a few people. As someone who has been very critical of this team dating back (well, years. But in its current incarnation) to December, I would very much like to see the Padres gut out a couple of wins.

Hey, cut me some slack. It's been seven years since our last playoff appearance. Indulge the fantasy for a couple more days, ok?

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