It’s a sentence that was 14 years in the making: The Padres are going to the playoffs.
“Bringing playoff baseball back to San Diego, I get emotional,” Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. said.
It can make eyes misty considering it was done minus pigs taking flight outside of Petco Park. Even the place down under — no, not Australia — didn’t freeze over for the improbable to become possible.
Instead the Padres, who open the National League Wild Card series at Petco Park on Wednesday, Sept. 30, earned their invitation the old-fashioned way with a new-age approach overseen by Encinitas’ A.J. Preller.
They delivered winning baseball by conquering rivals with a versatile roster constructed by Preller, the team’s sleep-averse general manager.
The offense has been spectacular. The defense doesn’t often gift runs. The rotation is flush, especially with the addition of ace right-hander Mike Clevinger. The relievers? No bull that those sprinting in from the ’pen are the real deal.
Add it all up, and even with a rookie manager in Jayce Tingler, the Padres accomplished something last done when Poway’s Bruce Bochy was the skipper.
As the Padres set sail into the playoffs, and with fans not attending the games because of the pandemic, watch parties will be the rage in North County houses and watering holes.
If new to the area, or just to the fact that the Padres snapped their nine-season skid of losing baseball, we present a primer to prepare for the first pitch.
Here’s the Padres’ fab five who need to shine to advance to the NL Division Series. It will be held in Texas and they could face the Los Angeles Dodgers, managed by Cardiff’s Dave Roberts.
Third baseman Manny Machado
The Padres’ $300-million man has produced with gusto this season and he’ll be the linchpin in a lineup that will face improved pitching in the postseason. Machado is a villain in every other city and he needs to keep it that way with his potent bat.
Machado, who led the Padres in five offensive categories through Monday, is in the running for the NL MVP award.
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
Why San Diego Gas & Electric hasn’t hired Tatis as a spokesman is a mystery. No one consistently brings more energy than Tatis, with his exciting play fueled with his motor that seems to be nuclear-powered. Tatis needs to rebound from a late-season slide to rev the offense as others feed off his enthusiasm.
Second baseman Jake Cronenworth
Preller and his staff love analytics and seeing what their computers spit out after inputting data. Cronenworth slipped through the cracks, landing with the Padres without the lofty expectations that accompanied other prospects. Cronenworth, the 208th pick of the 2015 draft, has been a revelation and he might earn the franchise’s third NL rookie of the year honor. He’s notched more doubles than Machado, Wil Myers and Tatis.
Pitcher Mike Clevinger
That Clevinger was presented a skateboard from North County legend Tony Hawk isn’t a shocker. Clevinger, with his shoulder-length hair and carefree spirit, looks the part of sidewalk surfer. But what he needs to shred is opposing lineups, which is his reputation.
Reliever Trevor Rosenthal
“Rosey” is not Trevor Hoffman but few are. The Padres seek the right-hander to just be Trevor Rosenthal, especially the one who has recorded double-digit save seasons in five of the past six years. Recording the final three outs are the toughest in any game and that is exacerbated in the playoffs.