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Tipsheet: Padres stop skid, look forward to Cardinals showdown

Tipsheet: Padres stop skid, look forward to Cardinals showdown

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Tatis slugs 39th homer, Padres beat Giants to gain on Cards

San Diego Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. celebrates after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants during the third inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The San Diego Padres pulled out of their tailspin just in time to face the Cardinals in a crucial three-game series.

The Padres snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants in back-to-back games. They moved within a half-game of the Cardinals for the second wild card spot.

Drawing from his experience in the STL, Padres outfielder Tommy Pham knows what that means

“We have a happy flight,” Pham said. “To win the last two here, against a really good team, is always a good thing. We can take this momentum to St. Louis.”

Of course, the Cardinals gained plenty of momentum too while sweeping the New York Mets to run their winning streak to five games. So this should be a fun weekend.

“We’re excited to get into St. Louis,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We’re playing a team that we’re trailing, and we’re fighting for the same thing. What more can you ask for?”

But the Padres come to town short on starting pitching with both Blake Snell and Chris Paddack on the injured list. The Padres grabbed Vince Velasquez (3-6, 5.95 ERA) after the Philadelphia Phillies let him go, but that might have been a reach.

“It’s unfortunate that they lost two of their starters, but I got a lot left in the tank,” Velasquez said. “I’m here to demonstrate what I’m capable of doing and try to help them out. I know that this is pretty much a pretty big moment for the squad, but I’m trying to get familiarized with all the guys right now and trying to pick their brains and see exactly where their mind is at.”

Despite their injuries and pitching shortcomings, the Padres should be dangerous now that they have regained their bearings. After all, this team can really rake when Fernando Tatis Jr. and Co. are locked in.

“You control your own destiny,” Pham said. “We can go out this weekend and put ourselves in a better situation going forward for the last two weeks of the season.”

TALKIN BASEBALL

Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:

Mike Axisa, CBSSports.com: “This will be the last chance for the Cardinals to make a move in the NL wild card race. They wrapped up their season series with the Reds this past weekend, and once they play San Diego this coming weekend, St. Louis will have to rely on other teams to beat the Reds and Padres for them. This is their last chance to handle business themselves and gain ground on a direct wild card competitor. For the Padres, this series is an opportunity to bury the Cardinals and create some breathing room over at least one team in the wild card race. The Padres swept the Cardinals in San Diego back in May.”

Alden Gonzalez, ESPN.com: “The Dodgers were short-handed with their rotation for a while, but that is no longer the case. Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin each provided encouraging starts upon getting activated from the injured list earlier this week, solidifying what could be a devastating rotation if the Dodgers ultimately advance into the division series. In a five-day stretch that culminated with Gonsolin's strong outing against the D-backs on Tuesday, the five members of the team's current rotation combined to allow just three earned runs in 31⅓ innings.”

Ginny Searle, Baseball Prospectus: “Look, I don’t know what to tell you. We’re sorry about the Giants’ PECOTA projection, which even now expects them to finish out the season at a below-.500 pace. I didn’t have anything to do with that, a fine thing to say now that even dropping nine of their last 17 contests would land them at 103 wins. If you have an explanation for all of this that makes sense, feel free to share it. Where I’m standing the club decided they could will out a performance like Anthony DeSclafani’s Tuesday, when he struck out just three batters but that’s perfectly fine because he only allowed that many hits, and a single additional walk. You get to do what you want when you break the rules. The problem is the Giants aren’t even doing this as a fluke; they’ve been stubbornly insistent on proving themselves all season.”

Jeff Eisenberg, Yahoo! Sports: “While the sprint to the finish isn’t do-or-die like pre-wild-card pennant races were, Major League Baseball’s playoff format gives the Giants and Dodgers incentive to prioritize winning the division. The loser will have to survive a winner-take-all play-in game, likely against the Cardinals, Padres or Reds. In other words, for either the Giants or Dodgers, a brilliant six-month season will come down to nine innings of randomness against an underwhelming 80-something win team. Should either the Giants or Dodgers lose that play-in game, the outcry will be inescapable. You’ll hear that the wild-card game is a blatant money grab. You’ll hear that the single-elimination format is unjust. You’ll hear that a best-of-three, at minimum, would be fairer so that a juggernaut team’s 100-win season doesn’t unravel because of a single questionable call or unlucky bounce.”

Abbey Mastracco, Bleacher Report: “The Phillies have arguably the best catcher in baseball (JT Realmuto) and one of the best overall players (Bryce Harper) playing for a World Series-winning manager (Joe Girardi).  So what's the problem? Similar to Cincinnati, the bullpen has hamstrung the club for the last few years. There were improvements made at the trade deadline, like bringing in Ian Kennedy from the Texas Rangers. Starter Kyle Gibson came from the Rangers as well, but he's been roughed up in his last three starts.  The problems go beyond the pitching corps, however. The Phillies were so bad in the 6-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs Tuesday that the longtime radio voice, Larry Andersen, ripped the entire team, including Harper for bad baserunning and Girardi for his decision-making.” 

MEGAPHONE

“I know it’s kind of crazy and it doesn’t make sense, but I don’t like MVP talk, I don’t like looking at my numbers, I don’t like looking where I’m at or where I’m at in the second half or anything like that. I just want to play my game. I just want to show up every night and make sure I’m playing right field and batting third and helping this team win.”

Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, on his strong finish.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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