In their long-awaited return to the postseason, the Padres were faced with adversity before they got a chance to take the field.
Recent injuries to their top starting pitchers, Dinelson Lamet (biceps tightness) and Mike Clevinger (elbow impingement) made their status uncertain for San Diego's Wild Card Series against St. Louis. On the morning of game one, we learned that neither will be available to face the Cardinals.
Both Clevinger and Lamet were left off the team's 28-man Wild Card roster.
General Manager AJ Preller told reporters that they have been thorough in their examination of the two starters, and didn't feel they were ready to throw 80-plus pitches to their capability. The hope is that both guys will progress, and have an opportunity to pitch if the Padres win two of three this week.
Clevinger threw a bullpen session Tuesday, and Lamet threw from 120 feet on Monday to test his arm out.
A report from ESPN's Jeff Passan cast doubt on Clevinger's availability the rest of the postseason.
With Lamet and Clevinger unavailable, Zach Davies will pitch game two and in the event of a game three Preller said they will take an "all hands on deck" approach.
As for Wednesday's game one, it will feature a pair of pitchers taking the MLB playoff stage for the first time.
St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said Monday that 32-year-old rookie Kwang-Hyun Kim will start for the Cardinals, then on Tuesday leaked the news that Chris Paddack will be on the mound for the Padres. Tingler later confirmed that Paddack will make his playoff debut.
"I think it's going to be a great experience for him, I think he's ready for this moment," Tingler said. "I think he's ready to make a run."
Paddack, who showed the makings of a budding ace as a rookie, has had an underwhelming second season. After posting a 3.33 ERA in 2019, that number rose to 4.73 over his 12 starts this summer.
The idea of Paddack as a game on starter would have elicited no surprise prior to the season. Paddack got the nod on Opening Day, and tossed six shutout innings. His performance was inconsistent from that point on. In a September 18th start against the Mariners he allowed one hit and no runs in six innings. Seven days later he capped his regular season with a 3.2 inning performance that saw the Giants tag him for five runs on eight hits with three homers.
"This game is very hard and I've realized that this year dealing with some adversity and a little bit of some learning experience on the way, but I'm excited." Paddack said Tuesday. "I'm gonna go out there and dominate. I'm gonna go out there and pitch with confidence. I'm gonna go out there and pitch with emotion."
While the 24-year-old has battled his mechanics and struggled with location at times, he has also admitted to shortcomings on the mental side of the game. He reiterated the importance of not thinking too much on the mound when he spoke to reporters Tuesday.
"I'll be mentally prepared, I'm ready to go," Paddack reassured.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals will send out 'KK', their impressive first year major leaguer. The left-hander from South Korea posted a 1.62 ERA, a number that would be even lower had he not surrendered four runs in 5.1 innings in a September 19th start against the Pirates. In his eight appearances, that was the only time he allowed more than one earned run. In each of his previous four outings he allowed no earned runs, while lasting at least five innings and giving up three hits.
The Cardinals mapped out their pitching plan Monday, with Adam Wainwright slotted for game two and Jack Flaherty if there's a game three.
It just so happens that the Padres' long-awaited return comes against the only National League team that has bested the Friars in the postseason. In 2005 and 2006 St. Louis went 6-1 over the course of their two NLDS meetings. The Cardinals swept the Padres in 1996.
This time around San Diego's club booked an appearance in October by going 37-23 over an abbreviated season, posting the third best record in Major League Baseball.
By any measure, the 2020 season is already an enormous success. Beginning Wednesday the Padres have a chance to punctuate their breakthrough season, and announce their arrival as true competitors.
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