Playoff deja vu could be cruel to the San Diego Padres.
Before Wednesday afternoon, the last time the Padres appeared in a playoff game was Oct. 8, 2006, when the Cardinals scored a 6-2 win in St. Louis to eliminate the Padres in the first round.
The game ended with Adam Wainwright, then the Cardinals’ closer, pitching to Yadier Molina.
Fast forward to Thursday at Petco Park. The right-hander Wainwright will be starting for the Cardinals with Molina catching as the Padres seek to stave off elimination in the National League’s best-of-three wild-card round.
The Cardinals won Wednesday’s series opener 7-4 after jumping out to leads of 4-0 and 6-2 — then turned back two late Padres rallies.
This is the fourth time the Cardinals and Padres have met in the playoffs since 1996. The Cardinals have won all three previous series (1996, 2005, 2006) and are 10-1 in postseason games against San Diego. In fact, the Cardinals are the only National League rival ever to defeat the Padres in a playoff series.
The key to San Diego’s hopes Thursday will be right-hander Zach Davies, who draws the starting assignment against Wainwright.
Davies not only needs to pitch well, he needs to go deep.
With San Diego’s top two starting pitchers — right-handers Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger — sidelined for at least the first round due to injuries, the Padres were already setting up what would be a decisive Friday game as a bullpen start. But the Padres were forced to use seven relievers for 6 2/3 innings Wednesday. If the Padres need the bullpen early and often Thursday, the cupboard may be bare Friday — if there is a Friday.
“We need Davies to set the tone tomorrow,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “But everyone will be available. We need to play our best game of the season. We barreled up five to six balls today, but they made plays.”
Davies was 7-4 in 12 starts this season with a 2.73 earned run average, a 1.07 WHIP, a .216 opponents’ batting average and .269 opponents’ on-base percentage. He pitched a total of 69 1/3 innings, allowing 55 hits and 19 walks with 63 strikeouts.
Davies has gone as deep as eight innings this season and completed at least six innings in half his starts.
Davies has 10 previous career starts against the Cardinals as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. He has a 2-3 record with a 4.55 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and .290 opponents’ batting average.
His off-speed pitches took a jump forward this season, particularly his change-up. And he’s always had success at Petco Park where he has a 6-2 career record in nine starts with a 3.40 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP and a .259 opponents’ batting average.
The 6-foot-7, 39-year-old Wainwright was 5-3 this season with a 3.15 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and .221 opponents’ batting average. He had 54 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.
He has a career 7-4 record against the Padres in 15 appearances (12 starts) with a 2.19 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and .240 opponents’ batting average. His marks at Petco Park are not quite as strong. He is 1-4 when pitching in San Diego in six appearances (five starts) with a 3.03 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and .229 opponents’ batting average.
Before Wednesday’s game, Wainwright praised the Cardinals’ position players who finished the regular season playing 53 games in 44 days with 11 doubleheaders.
“The position players are the guys who wore it,” said Wainwright. “You could look into their faces and tell they were tired. These guys are competitors. I look forward to seeing what they are going to do now.”
With a couple days rest, the Cardinals, who ranked near the bottom in offense during the regular season, broke out with seven runs in Game 1.
–Field Level Media