This, as the saying goes, is where the rubber meets the road for the 2019 San Diego Padres.
The Friars are 8.0 games back of the Dodgers in the National League West and barring a disaster of Biblical proportions L.A. is not coming back to the pack.
San Diego is 1.0 game behind the Braves for the 2nd Wild Card spot (and just 2.0 games back of the Brewers for the right to host a Wild Card game) and that means the Padres are squarely in the playoff hunt.
Coming off a 3-3 road trip the Padres are two games over .500 and are about to start a 10-game homestand that begins a stretch that will define the rest of their season. The month of June will tell us if this team is going to stay in playoff contention through September or not.
Over their next 10 games the Padres get the Marlins for three, the Phillies for three and the Nationals for four. If you’re going to be a good team you need to beat bad teams. Miami is 19-34, Philly is 33-32 and Washington is 24-32.
The Marlins have the worst record in the N.L. and the Nats are 3rd-worst on the senior circuit. Those are the spots we’re used to seeing the Padres in so these are somewhat uncharted waters for this franchise. If this really is a good baseball team … and even though they’ve played 56 games we’re honestly still not sure if it is or not … they have to use this homestand to get a little distance between themselves and .500.
Winning series against bad teams is an absolute necessity. That means going 2-1 against Miami and 3-1 against Washington (or basically 5-2 against those teams, however that happens). Then if they drop the 3-game set against the Phillies they have a 6-4 homestand and get to four games over .500, a spot they’ve reached a couple of times before falling back to the median.
The problem is the Padres are just 14-14 at home. That is something they MUST change if this season is going to keep up the promise we’ve seen so far.
The Friars need to have a bit of a buffer built up before that happens, especially since the Rockies have fixed whatever was ailing them early in the year and are hot on their tail. After a 3-12 start Colorado has gone 24-15 and certainly seem to have San Diego’s number.
After the homestand the Padres get two in San Francisco and then four at Coors Field (yikes) before hosting the red-hot Christian Yelich and the Brewers. After that it’s three in Pittsburgh, two in Baltimore (the Orioles have the worst record in baseball) and three at home against the Cardinals to finish the month.
That means 11 games against teams that have four of the five worst records in the game and just six games against teams with a winning record. The other 10 are the ones against the Rockies, Pirates and Cardinals … all teams that are within 3.0 games of a Wild Card spot.
So, June is going to be a chance to separate from the pack a little bit or fall into a quagmire with a whole bunch of other franchises trying to figure out how to jump-start their seasons.
We like numbers in sports so let’s say the number for the Padres to reach during June (plus the final day of May against the Marlins) is 15-12. That would put them at 44-39 as they hit July and the serious trade talks start up.
Anything short of that and this season will not end with a playoff berth. Even with SS Fernando Tatis Jr. returning at some point and even with RHP Dinelson Lamet likely to return by the end of the year and even with LHP prospect Logan Allen ready to jump into the rotation at any moment the innings limits that the big league pitching staff is scheduled to hit are going to take a toll.
If the Padres are five games over .500 with a Wild Card spot in sight it might prompt A.J. Preller to pull off a trade for (or sign) a veteran starter. If not then the Friars probably hold pat and we’re right back to where we all thought we’d be when the season started:
Seeing plenty of improvement and laying the ground work for what should be an extremely promising 2020 season. Now that’s still not a bad place to be.
But a pennant race is a whole lot better.