Just a couple of days ago, the San Francisco Giants seemed to have their first NL West title in seven years all but wrapped up, and the San Diego Padres’ flickering postseason hopes appeared ready to burn out.
After consecutive wins over the Giants, the Padres have a chance to clinch that seemingly impossible playoff berth - and potentially their first division title in four years - Sunday at AT&T Park.
A 1-0 loss to Chicago on Thursday put San Diego three games behind San Francisco in the West with three games left. The Padres (91-70) were also two in back of Atlanta for the wild card, but consecutive losses by the Braves to Philadelphia has that race tied heading into the season’s final day.
An Atlanta loss to Philadelphia and a Padres win later in the day would give San Diego the division crown on a tiebreaker - a 12-5 lead in the season series with San Francisco. The Giants (91-70) would then play as the NL’s wild card team in the postseason.
If the Padres and Braves remain tied after Sunday, San Diego would travel to Turner Field for a one-game playoff Monday. Should San Diego and Atlanta each win, it would cause a three-way logjam and the need for a pair of games.
The Giants would travel to face the Padres to decide the NL West title Monday night then the loser would head to Atlanta to determine the wild card the following evening.
“I really haven’t thought about all the scenarios,” said San Diego manager Bud Black following Saturday’s 4-2 victory. “As a group we’ve really thought about coming up here and winning one game.”
San Francisco, though, can avoid those scenarios by clinching its first division crown since 2003.
Jonathan Sanchez(notes) (12-9, 3.15 ERA) could give his team that chance to celebrate if he can duplicate his most recent outings. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA over his last six starts, including a one-hitter over five innings in San Diego on Sept. 10.
Sanchez also recorded the only no-hitter at AT&T Park against the Padres on July 10, 2009, but is 0-3 in six matchups since despite a 2.70 ERA. In August, he guaranteed a three-game sweep at home of the Padres but the Giants dropped two of three, including a 3-2 loss for Sanchez.
Latos has a 10.13 ERA during a four-game slide, which began with a 6-1 defeat to San Francisco on Sept. 12. Before that, the right-hander set a major league record with 15 straight starts of five or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed.
He was also 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in four games against the Giants before giving up five runs over four innings. San Francisco could have extra motivation in this game after Latos made critical comments last week about the Giants’ roster, saying that the team had picked up castoffs like Pat Burrell(notes), Jose Guillen(notes) and Cody Ross(notes).
Latos gave up a career-worst eight runs Sept. 17 in St. Louis, but has a more respectable 4.22 ERA over his past two defeats while getting a combined three runs of support. He allowed four runs - two earned - over 5 2-3 innings in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to Chicago.
The Padres also won the 2006 NL West championship in a tiebreaker over Los Angeles.