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Padres aim to even series in Game 2
10/04/2006 8:39 PM ET By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres find themselves in a familiar position against the Cardinals heading into what now becomes a crucial Game 2 of their best-of-five National League Division Series on Thursday at PETCO Park.
Going back to 1996, the Padres have lost seven NLDS games in a row to the Cardinals, only leading twice in those games. The Cardinals swept in 1996 and 2005 and are up 1-0 this year. In each of the series, the openers have set the tone, the Cardinals outscoring the Padres by a combined 16-7 in those three games.
During Wednesday's optional workout, Padres manager Bruce Bochy said he didn't expect his team that finished the regular season 88-74 and won the NL West for the fifth time to change much of anything.
"We've been playing good ball," said Bochy, who will send out veteran left-hander David Wells against right-hander Jeff Weaver. "I just want guys to keep doing what they've been doing. These guys have been playing under quite a bit of pressure for quite a while. Probably the most pressure is getting into [the postseason]. Once you get in, you don't change your game. You focus on every pitch the way you did all month."
Conversely, the NLDS seems to be the Cardinals' time of year. They are 18-4 in NLDS play, with three of the losses coming in 2001 to the Diamondbacks, who went on to defeat the Yankees in the World Series.
The other loss came two years ago against the Dodgers in a series the Cardinals won in four games.
St. Louis came back and swept Arizona in 2002. And save for the Game 3 that Jose Lima tossed at Dodger Stadium two years later, the Cardinals have won 11 of their last 12 NLDS games.
Against the Padres the last two years, the Cardinals have jumped off to the lead and have never trailed in a single game.
"That's one of those freak things," Redbirds manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday. "You can score first and lose. As even as the clubs are, I don't think you can make too much of it."
In Tuesday's opener, the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter out-pitched the Padres' Jake Peavy for the second consecutive postseason in the 5-1 victory.
The win was almost essential to St. Louis' chances this year. The Cards came into the postseason short starter Mark Mulder, who is out indefinitely after left shoulder surgery. Weaver, who didn't even join the Cardinals until July 5 in a trade with the Angels, needs to come up big.
"We have to get a good game from one of our other pitchers so we can get back to Carpenter again," said La Russa, who has slated last year's NL Cy Young Award winner for a possible Game 4 at Busch Stadium on Sunday.
The Padres need to generate some offense and jump out to a rare quick lead.
They are built around their bullpen and win over 90 percent of the time when they lead heading into the late innings. Trevor Hoffman, the all-time leader with 482 saves, has made only one game-on-the-line appearance in the seven previous postseason contests against the Cardinals, losing Game 3 of the 1996 series when St. Louis snapped a 5-5 tie with two runs in the top of the ninth for a 7-5 series-closing win at what was then called San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. "We have to regroup," Bochy said about the fate of his team. "We've been resilient all year. That's the way we have to be now. It was one game and we got beat. We have to put that behind us and come out and keep grinding. That's all you can do at this point."
It was a day of rest for most of us after a long grind, playing all through September with every game having a lot of meaning. We were told we could take Wednesday off, with a voluntary workout for guys who wanted to get some swings or throw some pitches, and we appreciated it.
I welcomed the time with my family. It isn't easy this time of year to get a free day, and it really can be rejuvenating. It probably was even restful for Geoff Blum. Blummer has those four little girls, and I'm sure he had a great time with them, as we all do with our kids when we get a little break. I feel good physically. I've been healthy all season, missing only 14 games from June 18 to July 5 with a knee contusion after I crashed into the wall at Anaheim going after a ball.
I feel like I've been more durable over my career than some people seem to think, and this has been my most productive season in most respects. I've set personal bests for runs scored (80), average (.293), triples (13) and steals (49) -- and not making an error in 129 games, I'm pretty proud of that. I was part of what I think was a great outfield with Mike Cameron and Brian Giles. Josh Barfield, they tell me, was at the workout, which doesn't surprise me. When you're young like that, with all that energy, it's good to work it off. That kid never gets tired. But neither did I when I was his age.
Speaking of Josh, I'd like to point out how much respect I developed for him -- and also for Adrian Gonzalez -- over the course of the season. It's never easy to be the new guy on a team, and here you had two guys who were basically rookies, even though Adrian played some for Texas last year. And the job those two guys did was phenomenal, all year long. Josh is very attentive. He'll come sit with me on the bench and pick my brain, and I love that. I remember one game, when he wasn't playing against San Francisco, and he was asking me all these questions about how to hit with two outs, how you change your approach, inside stuff like that. He absorbs everything and puts it to good use. I have no doubt he's going to be a great player for a long time. I especially like the way he focuses and performs under pressure.
Adrian is like that, too, extremely serious about the game. He's so smart, so advanced, it amazes me sometimes the things he does. Like that play in Arizona the other day, when he came up firing and got the out at second base to end the game -– the season, really. That was a play a 10-year veteran makes, knowing the situation, having a feel for what's happening and reacting instantaneously. Just a great play. And he's the same way with the bat, always studying, trying to improve.
We have a lot of veterans on this club, guys who have been around and know how to play the game right. I think that's helped Josh and Adrian both. But you still have to go out and do it on the field, and they've been tremendous all season long. There's no way we'd be here without them.
How do I feel about Game 2? Confident. I like our starting pitching every time out there, and this is no exception with David Wells. I look for a big game from Boomer -- and the rest of us.
October 04, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (8)