SAN DIEGO (AP)—The San Diego Padres managed to silence some critics by finishing with a winning record.
Now they’ve got to deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Adam Eaton was brilliant in his final playoff tuneup, striking out a season-high 11 and holding Los Angeles to one hit in seven scoreless innings as the NL West champion Padres beat the Dodgers 3-1 on Sunday to finish 82-80 (.506).
Excluding strike-interrupted years, it ties the 1973 New York Mets (82-79) for the fewest wins by a playoff team in major league history. The Padres also finished with the lowest winning percentage for a division champion in a non-strike year since divisional play began in 1969.
The Padres, who were two games under .500 a week ago, have won five of six going into their first-round series against the NL Central champion Cardinals starting Tuesday in St. Louis.
“It’s what we wanted to do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Actually, we wanted to do it about three weeks ago. But down the stretch here, we played much better ball—execution, the pitching, everything.
“It was great to win this division, but we really wanted to finish with a winning season,” Bochy said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of talk about it, but there would have been more talk if we’d have finished at .500. This was a big game for us, to finish on this note.”
Said closer Trevor Hoffman: “I think it’s a little bit better than .500, don’t you?”
The Cardinals had baseball’s best record, 100-62.
The Padres won the season series 4-3, taking three of four at St. Louis in early May and losing two of three in San Diego in late July.
Eaton said he’s been told he’ll start Game 3 at San Diego on Saturday.
Although Bochy said he wouldn’t announce his playoff rotation until Monday at the earliest, it’s expected to be ace Jake Peavy in Game 1, Pedro Astacio in Game 2 and then Eaton. If there’s a Game 4 in San Diego on Sunday, Peavy would pitch on his normal rest.
Peavy, Astacio and Eaton all pitched well in their final regular-season starts.
Eaton (11-5) retired his first 12 batters on Sunday before allowing Mike Edwards’ double down the right-field line leading off the fifth. Eaton then retired the side.
“These pitchers have just thrown outstanding,” Bochy said. “It’s great to see Adam on top of his game. That’s the Adam Eaton we know. What a great job he did. All of them, down the stretch here, they just found their game. It’s going to be important in this series. We know we need to pitch well.”
Eaton walked one. He and three relievers combined to four-hit the Dodgers, who finished 71-91.
In his previous start, Tuesday night against San Francisco, he lasted only 3 1-3 innings, allowing six runs and nine hits. The Padres rallied to win that game 9-6.
Eaton said he felt as good as he did in June, before he strained the middle finger on his pitching hand, leading to two stints on the disabled list that cost him nearly two months.
“I knew in my bullpen the other day that I kind of figured something out,” Eaton said. “Obviously, the results were very good.”
The Padres clinched the division title Wednesday night.
“Everybody was able to relax, work on some things and get geared up,” Eaton said.
“I wish it had come in a win, but this is a day I won’t forget,” Rose said.
Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 43rd save in 46 chances, and the 436th of his career.
Young singled leading off the first and scored on Mark Loretta’s double to left. Sean Burroughs doubled down the right-field line with one out in the fifth and scored on Young’s double to right-center. The Padres added a run in the eighth when Edwards, the Dodgers’ third baseman, dropped Ben Johnson’s two-out popup, allowing Miguel Olivo to score from second.
Elmer Dessens (1-2) allowed one run and four hits over four innings, striking out two and walking none.
Jim Tracy, who managed the Dodgers to the NL West title last year, is expected to find out in the next few days if he’ll be back next season.
“This one is easy to let go of with the type of season it’s been,” Tracy said, referring to his team’s numerous injuries.
Roberts hasn’t played since straining his left quad on Sept. 24. Bochy said Roberts should be OK to play Tuesday. … Padres RF Brian Giles and 3B Joe Randa got the day off. … Eaton was one shy of his strikeout high of 12 set April 23, 2003, in a 2-0 win at the Chicago Cubs.