The San Diego Padres shocked most of the baseball world when they eliminated the New York Mets in the National League Wild Card round. San Diego's prize for advancing? A best-of-five series against the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers. Precisely no one expects the Friars to take down baseball's best team, but that might be why it's possible. The Padres have nothing to lose and that makes them dangerous.
While San Diego's roster and payroll would suggest an NLDS exit would be a disappointment, let's be real: few expected them to get this far. Faced with a best-of-three series against a Mets team that boasted Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt, things looked bleak. But the Padres made it happen thanks to timely hitting and dominant outings from Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. Now attention is focused 123 miles up I-5, on a place that has been a house of horrors for San Diego.
There's no sugarcoating it, the Dodgers have utterly dominated the Padres for years. In fact, San Diego hasn't won the regular season series against LA since 2010. Starting with the 2011 season, the Dodgers have a 144-73 regular season record against the Padres. That's a winning percentage of .664, and it doesn't include a three-game sweep from the 2020 MLB playoffs.
This season has been particularly lopsided, as Los Angeles won 14 of the 19 meetings between the two teams and won every series.
The task is daunting for the Padres. The Dodgers led all of baseball in runs (847) and OPS (.775), while also posting the top team ERA (2.80) and WHIP (1.05). They dominated at the plate and on the mound all season.
So what can the Padres hang their hopes on? It's really quite simple: at some point they will break through against the Dodgers. From a statistical perspective, the tide will eventually shift. Maybe it won't be in this series, but things will reverse course.
San Diego's roster has enough juice to pull off an upset. With Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Jake Cronenworth, Chris Drury, Musgrove, Darvish, Blake Snell, Josh Hader and more, talent won't be an issue. It will just be a matter of putting it all together at the right time.
The Padres can enter this series feeling absolutely no pressure. They should be incredibly loose and with a "no one believes in us" chip on their collective shoulder. They're also armed with the knowledge that LA's dominance simply can't last forever.
Now would be a hell of a time to end it.