Padres, dreaming the improbable dream, host Cardinals

Field Level Media

September 23, 2023 at 12:20 pm.

The San Diego Padres are four games out of a National League wild card with eight games to go.

Improbable they should advance to the postseason? Yes. Impossible, no — especially if you ask the Padres themselves.

They have won eight straight games, albeit the past seven have come against the worst team in the major leagues (Oakland Athletics) and the worst two teams in the National League (St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies). And for a team that had huge playoff expectations entering the season, the players and manager Bob Melvin aren’t giving up the dream.

“We’re not out of it,” Manny Machado screamed to the Padres’ 59th home sellout crowd Friday night after hitting two tie-breaking homers in San Diego’s 4-2 win over St. Louis. “Sixteen in a row.”

The Padres (76-78) can dream, can’t they?

“We’re just playing right now,” Melvin said. “There’s just a feeling.”

San Diego has won eight straight for the first time since 2021. Nine consecutive wins would match the sixth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

And the Padres have made this late run without rotation anchors Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish.

Saturday night, the Padres will start right-hander Nick Martinez (5-4, 3.73 ERA) against Cardinals’ right-hander Jake Woodford (2-2, 5.31) in the penultimate home game of San Diego’s season — unless something improbable but not impossible happens.

Woodford, who was recalled from Triple-A Memphis five days ago, will be filling the rotation slot normally held by Adam Wainwright, who picked up his 200th career win in his most recent start. Not only is Wainwright out with shoulder and back pain, the Cardinals (67-87) on Friday afternoon placed two other stars — third baseman Nolan Arenado (lower back spasms) and catcher Willson Contreras (left wrist tendinitis) — on the 10-day injured list.

“We’ll be getting a chance to look at a lot of our younger players,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.

The 6-foot-4, 26-year-old Woodford was a first-round pick (39th overall) of the Cardinals in 2015. Although he made his major league debut during the pandemic season of 2020, he has spent much of the past three seasons shuttling between St. Louis and Memphis.

Overall, Woodford has a 10-6 record with a 4.01 ERA in 78 career appearances (16 starts) with the Cardinals. With St. Louis this season, Woodford has appeared in 13 games (six starts), giving up 26 runs (25 earned) on 51 hits and 19 walks with 28 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings.

Woodford will be facing the Padres for the first time in 2023. In three career relief appearances against the Padres, Woodford is 0-0 with an 8.10 ERA, giving up three runs on six hits and two walks with a strikeout in 3 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, Martinez will be making his second straight start for the Padres, but it will be just his eighth start in what will be 62 games in 2023. Over two seasons with the Padres, the 33-year-old Martinez has made 17 starts in 108 appearances.

He allowed one hit with five strikeouts over three innings against Oakland last Sunday in his first start since Aug. 8 and only his third since April 19, when Musgrove opened the season on the injured list.

“Nick’s done everything for us,” Melvin said. “He’s closed. He’s pitched the seventh and eighth. He’s gone long out of the bullpen. And he’s never complained about how he’s been used. He’s a gift for a manager.”

Lifetime against the Cardinals, Martinez has an 0-2 record in five games (two starts) with a 5.40 ERA.

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