Even after clinching their second consecutive playoff berth for the first time in franchise history, the San Diego Padres still have some work to do in the regular season.
San Diego looks to secure its second straight NL West title and gain home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs when it wraps up regular-season play against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Sunday.
The Padres (87-74) recorded the fifth playoff berth in their history with Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Arizona. Twenty-year veteran David Wells pitched six scoreless innings to earn the win—his first since San Diego acquired him from the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 31.
“This is what I live for,” said Wells, who is 10-4 in 26 career postseason appearances with five different clubs. “This is what I’ve played for is the opportunity to pitch in a big game when it counted. There’s nothing better.”
San Diego finished September with a 19-9 record, matching the most wins in the month in franchise history.
Despite clinching the playoff berth, the Padres remain tied for the NL West lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who defeated San Francisco 4-2 Saturday. San Diego will clinch the division for the second year in a row with either a win or a Los Angeles loss on Sunday.
The Padres own the tiebreaker with the Dodgers thanks to winning the season series between the clubs. Whichever team fails to win the West will advance to the playoffs as the NL wild card.
The NL West champion will have home-field advantage in a division series against the NL Central winner—either St. Louis or Houston. The wild card team will travel to New York to open its division series with the NL East champion Mets.
“We’re going to celebrate this, but not go overboard,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said after Saturday’s victory. “It’s a great day.”
San Diego has never won the NL wild card, but took the NL West title in 1984, 1996, 1998 and 2005.
One day after receiving a strong outing from the 43-year-old Wells, the Padres look for another out of 40-year-old right-hander Woody Williams (11-5, 3.57 ERA).
Williams is pitching his best ball of the season down the stretch, going 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last four starts. He has not won five starts in a row since Aug. 31-Sept. 30, 2001.
Williams allowed five runs—three earned—seven hits and four walks in Tuesday’s 7-5 victory over St. Louis. After the outing, he expressed confidence in San Diego’s postseason prospects.
“Last year I don’t think we were very good, I really don’t,” Williams said. “They rebuilt this team and we put a pretty good product out there now.”
The right-hander is 7-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 career starts versus the Diamondbacks. Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez is only 8-for-54 (.148) in his career against Williams.
This is expected to be the last game in a Diamondbacks uniform for Gonzalez, the franchise leader in most major offensive categories. Arizona (76-85) has said it will not pick up the $10 million option for the left fielder, who has been with Arizona since 1999.
The Diamondbacks are finishing their third consecutive losing season, but Brandon Webb (16-7, 2.88) is making a bid to win his first NL Cy Young Award.
Webb leads the league in ERA, and has yielded three earned runs or fewer in four straight starts and six of his last seven. The right-hander gave up just two runs—one earned—and three hits in eight innings at San Francisco on Tuesday, but did not factor in the decision of a 4-2 defeat.
“I’m obviously upset we didn’t win the game,” Webb said. “I felt pretty good out there. I made some pretty good pitches.”
Webb is 3-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 13 career starts versus San Diego.