The San Diego Padres’ season won’t end Sunday, but it’s still not a guarantee they’ll return to the postseason.
After a disappointing loss their last time out, the Padres once again try to clinch their third straight playoff berth when they wrap up their four-game season-ending series with the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
San Diego (89-72) has a one-game lead over Colorado, Philadelphia and the New York Mets in the NL wild-card race, and is assured of at least a tie for the wild-card spot.
If the Padres lose Sunday, they could be involved in one of a number of different tiebreaker scenarios depending on the results of the games involving the Rockies, Phillies, and Mets.
The Padres can make this easy on themselves, though, by winning Sunday and clinching the wild-card spot outright—something they failed to do Saturday.
San Diego was one strike away from earning a playoff berth, but all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman allowed a game-tying triple with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to Tony Gwynn Jr. The Padres went on to lose 4-3 in 11 innings.
“That’s going to be put to the test again,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to go down to the last game of the season. The positive is that it’s still in our corner. We still control of our own destiny. Go out and win, and take care of business there.”
Saturday’s loss snapped a four-game winning streak, but San Diego has still won 11 of its last 16. The Padres have also won five of six over the Brewers this season.
“I think the boys will bounce back, and we’ll come in and play and hopefully not have to go to Monday,” San Diego staff ace Jake Peavy said.
First-year manager Bud Black will save Peavy, a Cy Young Award candidate, for a potential tiebreaker, and start Brett Tomko (4-11, 5.39 ERA) in the regular-season finale.
“We don’t want to waste Jake if we don’t have to,” Black said. “And if we need him for a playoff game, we have him right there—full rested, not on three days’ rest.”
Tomko has pitched well for the Padres, going 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts since signing as a free agent on Sept. 4 after going 2-11 with a 5.80 ERA in 33 games - 15 starts - for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On Tuesday, the right-hander gave up four runs and six hits in six innings of a 6-4 win over San Francisco, but was not a factor in the decision.
Tomko is 7-2 with a 3.70 ERA in 14 games - 12 starts - lifetime against the Brewers. He struggled in his only start against Milwaukee this season, though, allowing five runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-5 loss for the Dodgers on May 21.
Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and run-scoring single on Saturday. Gonzalez is batting .600 (12-for-20 ) with two home runs, six RBIs and seven runs scored in six games against the Brewers this season, and is 3-for-5 with two homers and a double lifetime against Sunday’s starter Jeff Suppan (11-12, 4.57).
Suppan is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in five September starts, and has posted a 2.79 ERA in winning his three home starts this month.
On Tuesday against St. Louis, the right-hander allowed one run and nine hits in eight innings of a 9-1 victory over his former team.
In his only start of the season against San Diego, Suppan gave up three runs and six hits in six innings of a 3-0 loss on May 27. He has not defeated the Padres since 2004, going winless in his last four starts against them. Suppan is 3-3 with a 6.26 ERA in eight career starts against San Diego.
Milwaukee (82-79), which was eliminated from playoff contention with Friday’s 6-3 loss, is guaranteed of finishing with its first winning record since 1992 with Saturday’s victory.
“Even when you get to 81-81 it’s still, ‘Well, you haven’t had a winning season,’” Brewers manager Ned Yost said.