The San Diego Padres are on a roll since holding a team meeting the day after a dreadful loss in Arizona last week.
As an added bonus, they kept Albert Pujols in the ballpark in the opener of a three-game series against the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
Kim Ha-seong homered and Mike Clevinger had a strong outing for the Padres, who shut down Pujols and the Cardinals 5-0 Tuesday night to clinch their first winning record in a full season since 2010.
The Padres won their fourth straight since a lackluster 4-0 loss at Arizona on Thursday night, after which they were called out by manager Bob Melvin. They had a team meeting before Friday night's game and have looked strong ever since.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
“Everyone's living and dying pitch to pitch,” Clevinger said. "That's how we need to stay, with the same mentality. We're not worried about tomorrow, we're not worried about the standings, let's just get this pitch, let's win this at-bat, let's make this play in the outfield. That's kind of how we've been rolling.”
The Padres, 82-66, took a 1 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia for the NL's second wild-card spot. The Phillies lost to Toronto, 18-11.
Pujols remained at 698 career homers. He's trying to become the fourth major leaguer to reach 700 homers, following Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714). He walked and singled off Clevinger, grounded out to shortstop against Nick Martinez and singled off Luis Garcia with two outs in the ninth.
With fans around the ballpark on their feet in the second inning, including many red-clad Cardinals fans, Clevinger walked Pujols and was booed.
“You know what it's like getting booed by your own crowd and teammates when you throw a 3-2 slider to him?” Clevinger said with a laugh. “What he's doing is amazing. The mark he's going to leave on baseball is going to be around for eternity. I'm just grateful to get an opportunity against him and I'm glad I'm not the one who gave it up to him.”
The Padres winning record in a full season is the first for general manager A.J. Preller, who took over late in the 2014 season. The Padres were 37-23 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when they won a wild-card series against the Cardinals before being swept in the NL Division Series by the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Melvin has been pleased with the effort since Thursday night's stinker.
“The common theme is crisp games, good defense, timely hitting, good pitching. It usually adds up to a win,” Melvin said.
Kim homered to left off Adam Wainwright (11-10) with two outs in the fourth, his 10th, for a 3-0 lead. Manny Machado lobbed an RBI single into shallow right with one out in the fifth and Juan Soto hit a run-scoring single to right off Packy Naughton with two outs in the seventh.
Jake Cronenworth hit a two-run, opposite-field single with two outs in the first.
Clevinger (6-7) held the Cardinals to three hits in 5 2/3 innings while striking out three and walking two. Padres starters have a scoreless streak of 20 2/3 innings. The right-hander got the hook after allowing a double to Paul Goldschmidt with two outs in the sixth and then hitting Nolan Arenado with a pitch. Martinez came on and retired Corey Dickerson.
“This was Clev's best day in a while,” Melvin said. “Not just because you look at the numbers. The velo was at 96 at times, his breaking ball was really sharp. Maybe leave him in one guy too long, going into Arenado's at-bat he was getting a little bit tired. But he goes through the first time around, no hits, sharp breaking ball. Had a really good week leading up to it.
“Probably let him go a little bit longer as far as the pitch count went, but man it's good to see him pitch like that because we need him. Hopefully it's a trend for Clev because he definitely has the ability to do that.”
Wainwright allowed four runs and six hits in six innings, walked two and struck out one.
LET'S GO SURFING
Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman and third baseman Manny Machado of the Padres presented custom surfboards to the retiring Pujols and Yadier Molina at home plate before the game. Pujols got a longboard while Molina got a regular surfboard. The boards feature photos of the players, their names, numbers and nicknames — The Machine and Yadi. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol accepted on behalf of Molina, who was warming up Wainwright in the bullpen.
Cardinals RHP Miles Mikolas (11-12, 3.46 ERA) and Padres LHP Blake Snell (7-9, 3.85) are scheduled to start Wednesday night in the middle game of the series.