I’m usually not one to make a big deal about a team’s single victory in April. In fact, I usually laugh when I hear people say “This is a MUST win game for this team” when referring to any game prior to July 1st. However, yesterday’s 6-4 Padre victory over the Florida Marlins really forced me to stop, and take notice of what this team has been saying to the baseball world for half a season now.
What the Padres have been telling the horsehide gurus (actually it was changed to cowhide back in 1947, but “put the hickory to the horsehide” was always one of my favorite sayings when coming up through the minors), is that they can play! Their position atop the N.L. West as we approach the end of April should be proof enough that this team appears to have been underestimated by most of the pre-season prognosticators. Sports Illustrated picked them to finish the season 66-96…clearly a typo that had those numbers switched, because the team they reported to “have no such problems with imbalance. They’re equally poor on the mound and at the plate.” is on pace to finish 100-62.
I know, I know, it’s only April 29th. But, as I alluded to earlier this team has been playing very solid baseball for half a season now going back to last year. Coming into tonight’s match up against the Brewers, they are 49-31 over their last 80 games (essentially half a season). That amounts to 99 wins over a full 162. How does that compare to the rest of the division over the last 80 games played?
So why did yesterday’s game stand out for me?
They came back from a 4 run deficit to take the win away. Not many teams are able to come from behind. It’s not just a talent issue, but more importantly a character issue. I’ll take a less talented team that believes they can win over a more talented team that doubts they can win…every time. This Padres team hasn’t been winning by out slugging their opponents, but they never give up, and have consistently shown they will keep coming at you until the final out is recorded.
They took the series after dropping game 1 uggly, 10-1. Another gut check that the Padres passed. After having their 8 game winning streak snapped in the last game in Cincinnati, they get completely manhandled by the Marlins and Josh Johnson in the series opener. Yet, they bounce back with a nice 4-1 victory behind a solid outing by Garland, then forge the come from behind W yesterday to cap off a 4-2 road trip. Showed some grit, to me.
They won their second series on the road. After not looking very good in Colorado and Arizona to start the season, it was important for them to go back out on the road again and show they could win, especially in a slugger oriented ball park like Great American Ballpark.
New faces were a part of the comeback. Great to see Oscar Salazar, and Jerry Hairston at the front of that comeback 5th inning. Gonzalez and Headley have been carrying much of the offensive load so far, and Padres’ pinch hitters are currently last in the N.L. in every offensive category, so it was nice to see the bench leading the charge. Hopefully it well get them jump started as a unit.
Again, I KNOW it’s only one game. I KNOW it’s only April. Still, I liked what that 6-4 victory showed yesterday, and I really like what this team has shown for a full half season of work – solid pitching, solid defense, the ability to win close games, and a growing confidence and expectation that they will find a way to win.
Keep it going, boys, because it’s been fun to watch!