When the 2013 MLB season began, it would have been difficult to find anyone who thought that the San Diego Padres could compete for the NL West crown. However, with a sweep of the division-leading Diamondbacks, that is exactly the position that the Padres find themselves in.
Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Arizona gave San Diego both the sweep and their 6th consecutive victory. Former uber-prospect Kyle Blanks has reemerged from the depths of the minors, and even after entering Sunday with a red-hot bat, he took it to a new level in the series-clincher. Blanks blasted the go-ahead, game-winning 3-run home run in the 8th inning off of David Hernandez, and with that swing, he vaunted the Padres back into the discussion.
Shockingly, the 3-run margin of victory was the largest of the win streak for San Diego, as they’ve done wonders in close games thanks to a sudden pitching surge. Former University of Michigan quarterback Clayton Richard lowered his ERA to 7.01 (not a misprint) with an 8-inning, 1-run outing on Sunday, and that has been the theme throughout the week. Impressively, the San Diego starting pitcher has earned the win in all 6 victories, and while Richard’s performance was one of the best, it certainly didn’t divert from the norm.
At 35-34, San Diego is far from a lock to remain in contention for the division crown. Even with the surge, the Padres are in 4th place in the division, and with more talented teams (San Francisco, Arizona, and possibly Colorado) ahead of them, they will need this level of pitching to keep up. It’ll be interesting to follow the trends of this less-than-proven group, but for now, they are certainly surging.