On Thursday night, shortly after a crazy 11-9 win against St. Louis, Padres manager Jayce Tingler was asked who would start the decisive Game 3 of their Wild Card series against the Cardinals.
"I have no idea," said the skipper.
Tingler lost aces Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger before the series, then had to scramble when Chris Paddack and Zach Davies went a combined 4.2 innings in their two starts. That means the San Diego bullpen has had to work 13.1 innings over the last two days.
Now they have to cobble together (at least) nine more with a group that is gassed. Almost by the process of elimination, the Padres are going to hand the ball to veteran reliever Craig Stammen. The 36-year-old is one of the few guys who did not appear in Game 2, so by San Diego relief-pitching standards right now, he's rested.
You have to hope that starting games is like riding a bike. The last time Stammen started a game was 2010. Since then he's appeared in 424 Major League games, all of them in relief. The Friars will try to get as many outs as they can from Stammen before calling on the next guy, and there will be no shortage of "next guy" candidates. If the Padres win, they get to face the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. If they lose, their season is ove,r so literally everyone on the staff is available.
Stammen will be opposed by St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty, who was 14 years old when Stammen made that last start. Since then, the Cardinals youngster has become a force. In 2019, he showed the kind of stuff that made people think he could win a Cy Young Award but has struggled with consistency in 2020. Good Flaherty could throw a no-hitter. Bad Flaherty could give up a bunch of very hard-hit baseballs.
Hard-hit baseballs are something the Padres specialize in. San Diego set a big league post-season record on Thursday night by hitting five home runs after the 6th inning, and they didn't even have to bat in the 9th. If they can carry that momentum into Friday afternoon's 4 p.m. start at Petco Park, it might not matter who's on the mound for either team.
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