If I asked you to name me the best teams in the National League since the All-Star break, you’d probably be able to knock out most without hesitation. The Washington Nationals? Of course. The Cincinnati Reds? Without a doubt. Atlanta Braves? Sure. Our San Francisco Giants? Obviously. The San Diego Padres? Wait – what?
Yes – the friendly friars from Petco have put together a fantastic second half, going 34-22 since the Mid-Summer Classic – the same exact record as our San Francisco Giants.
The two teams will meet six times in the seasons final twelve games and although the orange and black have handled the Padres with ease this year, going 8-4 through the first twelve contests, Giant fans know what a thorn in the side Bud Black’s team can be.
Thankfully, the Giants’ solid second half combined with the woes of the Los Angeles Dodgers has given Bruce Bochy and company a comfortable lead in the National League West – but the last thing you want is to be limping into the playoffs, so the Giants simply can’t assume they’ll walk over the Padres as they’ve done the past season and a half.
Crazy as it sounds – the Padres are within striking distance of the National League Wild Card, especially with two spots open, currently sitting 7.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves who are tied atop the WC lead. The chance of them leapfrogging five teams is slim – but the Padres do have six remaining games (three each) against Arizona and Los Angeles, two teams who sit in front of them in the Wild Card chase. They certainly have something to play for and I’d be hard pressed to assume a Bud Black lead team will ever lay down, even if they didn’t have anything to play for.
The Giants and Padres don’t open their first of two remaining series’ until a week from Friday, so the picture will be a lot more clear as to what the Padres’ realistic chances are at making a run at the Wild Card (and what type of lead the Giants hold in the NL West, for that matter) – but the Giants certainly can’t take the Padres for granted as just another losing team on their schedule.
Much has been made of the Dodgers’ late season roadie, with a trip to Washington D.C. and Cincinnati on the menu – but the Giants need to make sure they don’t overlook any of their “sub .500″ foes, especially the Padres who’ve played like a playoff team since MLB’s early July break in Kansas City.