Bauman: Persistent Padres not going away
Friars leaving impression that first place is where they belong
MILWAUKEE -- There is a persistent, relentless quality to the work of a winning baseball team. The Padres, with the best record in the National League, qualify as persistent, as relentless, and above all else, as winning.
Only once this season have the Padres lost three consecutive games, and that was more than three months ago, in mid-May to the Dodgers. So even though the Padres had suffered through two nights of pitching well below their best-in-baseball standards, there was reason to believe that Sunday afternoon they would be just fine again.
And they were.
"There are a number of reasons why this year has crystallized, and I think one of them is the makeup of our guys," said manager Bud Black. "We've shown that resiliency all year."
The ensuing 7-3 victory over the Brewers proved that point. It also illustrated another reason that the Padres are consistently able to avoid losing streaks of any length at all -- their pitching, which sits tops in the Major Leagues with a 3.28 team ERA.
Sunday's pitching matchup was Jon Garland against Manny Parra. There are no foregone conclusions in baseball, but there are likely outcomes. Garland won his 130th game. Parra's earned run average climbed from 5.36 to 5.65. Garland beating Parra was a likely outcome.
And the depth of the Padres' pitching was also on immediate display. The Brewers loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning and Luke Gregerson came in to face leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks. Gregerson's second pitch produced a bouncer back to the mound. That, in turn, became a 1-2-3 double play that effectively ended the one chance Milwaukee had to get back in the game.
The 2010 Padres are 14-1 after dropping two consecutive games this season. That remarkable record underscores the strength and the character of this club.
"Our guys are getting it done," Black said. "There's no magic formula. We've shown the ability to be resilient after a loss, or a few losses, and it starts with pitching and defense. When we get beat, we get beat; we don't lose many games, we don't give many games away. And that's a tribute to how these guys play."
The Padres moved six games ahead of the Giants in the NL West, matching their largest lead of the season. The trend line is all positive for the Padres, who are 23-12 since the All-Star break. There are no ill omens lingering around this club, no disturbing hints of future difficulties.
The Padres are in an enviable position, but they have earned it. When a reporter suggested to Black on Saturday night that the Padres' loss was no problem, since the Giants also lost, the manager launched into an unsolicited listing of all the clubs that his players would not be involved with as scoreboard-watchers. The list included every team in their division.
"Our thing all year has been we worry about what we have to do," Black said. "If we take care of our own business, things will be fine."
That is the time-honored approach. If the Padres continue to play as well as they have over the course of the season, they will not require anything more than a momentary, incidental, reflexively curious bit of a glance at a scoreboard.
The Padres have made an impression with anyone who has been paying attention. Ryan Ludwick came over from St. Louis in a deadline trade. The right fielder, who had a crucial two-out, two-run double Sunday, came from a perennial contender to a somewhat different situation -- a club that lost 186 games over the past two seasons. But he has been completely impressed with both the tangible and intangible qualities of his new team.
"It's been tremendous," Ludwick said. "This is a club that was written off by a lot of people in the spring. But they've come to play. They play hard. They play the game the right way. And now, they're in a position to do something really special."
The Padres have been in first place in the NL West continuously since June 18. The distinct impression they are leaving is that this is where they are supposed to be.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.