Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

SAN DIEGO — The Padres are heading into the playoffs. And this time, the city of San Diego will be celebrating with them.

As the Brewers lost to the Marlins in overtime on Sunday afternoon, San Diego earned its place in the 2022 playoffs — even with a 2-1 loss to Peco in the weekend series Park previously ended the game against the White Sox.

The Padres will play the first game of a three-game NL wild-card series on Friday — on the road against the Warriors, Mets or Cardinals.

It marked the Padres’ seventh playoff appearance and their first since 2006 in a 162-game season. It was the first time since 2005 that they celebrated in front of fans at Petko Park. Sure, they had home victories in the 20th century, but in a pandemic-shortened roster, they celebrated in an empty stadium.

“It’s definitely been different in 20 years,” second baseman Jack Cronanworth said Saturday night. “A 60-game season, no fans – just us. It’s really special to do that in front of a home crowd.”

He doesn’t have to wait long. It only took the Padres a few hours to secure their spot as one of three wild cards in the National League. All that’s left is sowing. If the Padres finish before Philadelphia, they’ll head east as the No. 5 seed to New York or Atlanta. If they fall behind the Phillies (who are currently one game behind but have a tiebreaker against San Diego), the Padres face the NL Central champion Cardinals in the first round.

But first the little things to celebrate a playoff berth. The priests knew firsthand how difficult it was. A year ago, they sat 17 games above .500 in early August but ended up 79-83 – a collapse that chairman Peter Seidler considered a “once in a century”.

The clergy swore not to make the same mistakes – they set out to build a list that would not make the same mistakes. Manager Jess Tingler was fired at the end of the season, along with other changes in management. The Padres spent the offseason making sure they had the necessary pitching depth to withstand the rigors of the playoffs. (They learned that lesson the hard way in 2021.)

But what is the biggest change? Bob Melvin in the manager’s chair. This is the roller coaster of the 2022 season. The Padres endured their struggles, especially on offense. They overhauled their roster at the trade deadline. They basically dealt with the loss of superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. twice — the first time at the start of the season when his left wrist was revealed to be broken and the second time On the verge of his return, Tatis was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Through it all, Melvin steers a steady boat.

The Padres had a deep rotation early in the season, coupled with an MVP-caliber performance from Manny Machado. But it soon became apparent that the offense needed reinforcements, and they reached the trade deadline in the form of Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury.

In the end, it took the Padres three days to stop Milwaukee’s offense — an important fact because it gave them time to roll out a playoff rotation. In a wild-card series, they’d probably line up Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove — and probably in that order.

They have some lineup, bullpen and roster questions to answer. But for now, those can wait. The priests — and their cities — have some festivities to do.