Padres Daily: It’s now or never in the NLCS

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Good morning from Philadelphia,

Well, here we are.

Today we take a look at either the Padres’ latest fight or their first step toward an unlikely comeback.

“We’ve got 27 cars left and we’re going to go out there and compete and leave it on the field,” Manny Machado said late last night.

As much as he wishes it weren’t true, Machado’s line that the only thing that matters is getting 27 runs certainly rings true today.

Don’t get those 27 cars, won’t need to get anymore for a while.

Last night’s blowout loss to the Phillies left the Padres three games to one in the National League Championship Series. They have to win three games in three days. One loss means waiting for next year.

You can read about the loss — poor pitching by Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea and the big odds facing the Padres — in my game story (here).

They certainly talked quite a bit about how all their struggles, comebacks and one-and-done wins, and having to fight until almost the last day of the regular season, anchored them for a time like this.

“Obviously we’re hitting a wall,” Josh Bell said. “But, you know, we’ve been here before. We’ve had our backs against the wall for the last couple of months and we’ve been scratching and clawing our way back to where we needed to be to stand right here and have this conversation. So we’ll rest tonight and come back after that tomorrow.’

What about…?

You can read more about what happened to the Padres’ pitching last night, what the pitching outlook is tonight, and the potential hellscape they’d face in Games 6 and 7 if they won tonight in a story by Jeff Sanders (here).

Let’s talk about what Bob Melvin could have done differently last night and whether it would have mattered.

What Melvin did: He saved Manaea in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Padres took a 6-4 lead in the top of the fifth. In the fourth inning (his first), the left-hander allowed a run and a pair of hard balls, and was helped by Jurickson Profar, who threw out a runner at second base, and Jake Cronenworth, who caught a line drive.

What Melvin could do: With lefties Brandon Marsh and Kyle Schwarber as the first two batters of the fifth inning, Melvin could have gone with lefty Adrian Morejon or lefty Tim Hill.

What happened: Manaea struck out Marsh, walked Schwarber, homered Rhys Hoskins, walked JT Realmuth and surrendered a double to the left-hander that hit Bryce Harper before being ejected.

“I was going to try to get him one time around the lineup,” Melvin said. “I thought his stuff was better. He had 95 (mph). He had swings and misses when he got in the zone. But he could not find it. The second pitch (Manaea), it happened quite quickly. … We tried to get him through Harper. That’s kind of where we are. He knocks Marsh out, looked good, had a good velo. Walked Schwarber on some close pitches and at this point we’re trying to get him through Harper.”

Of course, we can doubt that.

Melvin seems to have trusted Manaea too much at times. Also, his willingness to stick with a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in 17 days and was struggling against a team so important to him belied the urgency of the situation.

What would happen: We don’t know.

The beauty of re-guessing is that we don’t have to explain what could have gone wrong on our chosen path. We just talk about what went wrong in reality and assume that our path would have been smoother.

On Friday, Hill pulled Marsh from the grounder and allowed a single to Schwarber. Morejon allowed four runs with no outs on Oct. 8, his last outing.

If Hill had been pulled through a 1-2-3 fifth, he likely wasn’t going to return for the sixth. But Morejon could work a few innings, or at least through Harper.

Ultimately, if they were to go through Harper, Luis Garcia or Steven Wilson would probably go sixth. Garcia has been excellent and inconsistent almost all season. Wilson, a rookie, was also those things. Both gave up home runs last night.

So would it matter?

Remember, the Padres got three singles and didn’t score after the fifth inning.

As for Clevinger and Manaea’s performance last night, you have to admit they ended the season looking strong.

Clevinger allowed the White Sox one run in six innings on October 1st and Manaea pitched six shutout innings on October 4th. It was justified that they were on the roster instead of Nabil Chrismat or Craig Stammen because there was a perception that both starters could provide more innings.

At one point, the Padres were going to use Clevinger and Manaea in a backcourt battle to take a game in the best-of-seven series. With a compressed postseason schedule as a result of the lockout, meaning no days off between Games 5 and 6, and the potential to play five games in five days, they couldn’t afford a full bullpen. Or at least they better not plan.

File Clevinger

Clevinger said last night that his right knee, which has required almost daily treatment for the past seven months, was “feeling good”. He blamed his lack of execution on bad habits formed while throwing through a sprained MCL.

“I think he had a good week,” Melvin said. “He’s been struggling with things all year. I think he felt good going into this game.”

Those valuations would seem to rule out the Padres placing Clevinger on the injured list and bolstering their bullpen with either Chrismath or Stammen.

Barring three straight wins and the Padres deciding he’s a viable World Series option, we can probably consider Clevinger’s case closed.

He cost the Padres four major leaguers and three quality clients sent to Cleveland in 2020 and more than $13 million over three seasons in San Diego.

To do so, he pitched a total of 137 innings and had a 4.47 ERA, including the eight runs (seven earned) he allowed in 2 2/3 innings this postseason.

It doesn’t seem like it’s saying much to say the Padres lost this trade. This turned out to be a huge waste of capital and player money.

It was a brave game, and you can’t win without bravery. The thing is, injuries to Clevinger’s elbow and knee doomed it. He was one of the best pitchers in the major leagues from 2017-20. He can become a decent pitcher again if his knee is healthy.

One thing that can be said for sure about Clevinger is that there aren’t many who care more. The man is furious, and he’s worked hard to get his elbow healthy and beat his knee injury.

“This is probably one of the worst days of my life,” he said last night. “That sums it up. It sucks.”

Nice pieces

  • The Padres scored four runs in the first inning last night. In the first 10 games of this postseason, they scored four runs in the first inning. However, it was the fourth time they scored at least four runs in an inning this postseason.
  • Of the 68 times a team has scored four runs in the first inning in postseason history, that team has now lost nine times.
  • With his three perfect innings last night, Nick Martinez has a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings this postseason. He appeared in seven of the Padres’ 11 games.
  • Last night saw the Padres’ rare loss this postseason in which Machado had a big night. He entered the game going 10-for-24 (.400) with three doubles, three homers and five RBI in the Padres’ six playoff wins, going 1-for-16 with no home runs and one RBI in their three losses. He was 2-for-4 with a solo homer last night.
  • Machado’s four homers tied Jim Leiritz (1998) for most in franchise history in a single postseason.
  • Austin Nola passed Carlos Hernandez for most innings pitched in a single postseason in franchise history. Nola has been at the plate for all 95 defensive innings this postseason. Nola’s 143 career postseason innings is the most in franchise history.
  • The Padres have won 13 straight games in which they have scored six or more runs. They are now 46-5 when scoring that many runs in a game in 2022.
  • Trent Grisham was hitless in 12 games in the wild-card series against the Mets. Since then, he has 15 strikeouts in 32 games.
  • Today’s weather forecast is insignificant. The National Weather Service is calling for a 30-50 percent chance of rain starting around game time. Heavy rains are not expected. And since meteorologists are never wrong, let’s not worry about it.

Ok, that’s it for me. Let’s talk tomorrow.

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