MLB: The Race for First Place in the NL West

Southern California — a great place to be if you like the ocean and warm weather, but it is usually not at the center of a rivalry this late in the MLB season. However, as has been the case with much this year, 2020 proves to be different than anyone expected. The past few years, it has been the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, or the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies who have been fighting for the first-place spot in the NL West — but not this year. This season, the San Diego Padres have played extremely well, clinched a spot in the postseason, and are a contender for the division title.

Looking back over this shortened season, the Dodgers and Padres have been right on top of each other as to who has the number one spot in the division. Because the Dodgers have made the postseason for the past seven years, it is not much of a surprise to see them in the playoffs again this year and in the hunt for another division title again this year. However, being near the top spot in the division is something new for the Padres, who made their last playoff appearance in 2006 and are now in a position to potentially win the division this year.

Since the Padres have not been in the postseason during the past fourteen years, one might wonder what changed this year to allow them to do so well in this season. This moment has been a few years in coming. Will Myers, acquired in 2015, Manny Machado, acquired in 2019 and Fernando Tatis Jr., who joined the team in 2019, have been on the team for a few years and have been steadily improving. Now, they are leading the charge towards the postseason with Manny Machado being a strong contender for the MVP award. Continuing during the last offseason, pitcher Drew Pomeranz’s contract was renewed for another four years and Tommy Pham was added to the roster among several other players. Finally, with trade deadline additions including Mike Clevinger, Trevor Rosenthal, Mitch Moreland and others, the depth of their lineup was further solidified raising the possibility of making the postseason.

With all these factors combined, the Padres have had a great season led by Will Myers, who has hit 14 home runs, Fernando Tatis Jr., who has hit 15 home runs, and Manny Machado who has had 65 hits and 46 RBIs this year. Despite losing two of three games to the Dodgers last week, the Padres manager Jayce Tingler still responded in a positive way, saying “Obviously they won the series today, and they won the series on the year … but every game, for the most part, has been very competitive, could go either way. I think we can go toe-to-toe with them.”

Going into the final week of the regular season, the Padres are 4.0 games behind the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. While it remains to be seen if the Padres can win the division this year, they have performed much better this year than they have the past fourteen seasons and have finally made the postseason once again.

Post Author: Tommy Reid