Monday, September 6, 2010

What's Going On in the National League: How the Mighty Are Falling

First St. Louis, now San Deigo, what's going on?

On 8/25 Padres had won 8 out of ten games and had won 3 in a row. They held a 6 ½ game lead over the San Francisco Giants. All looked well as they worked to fine tune their game for a trip to post season representing the National League West. They had won two games against the last place Arizona Diamondbacks. The following night, they lost to Arizona 11-5, no sign of impending doom. The following day the Philadelphia Phillies checked in for a weekend series. The Padres would have to be prepared. The Phillies were looking for their surge to overtake the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East. The results, the Padres lost all three games, 3-2 in 12 innings, 3-1, and 5-0. This was not good, but a hot team can catch another team off guard, and with the Phllies tough pitching, the Padres bats could look a little limp. No need to panic, but that’s four games down. They still were five games ahead of San Francisco.

It was time for a road trip to the last place Diamondbacks, a chance to get well quickly. However, the Diamondbacks not only beat them, but beat them soundly, 7-2, 7-4, and 5-2. It was only a three day road trip, but they’d entertain the Colorado Rockies, a team notorious for getting hot this time of year.

Sure enough, the Rockies were hot, hot enough to sweep the series, and the Padres have now lost ten games in a row holding to one game lead.

They stay at home for their next combatants, the LA Dodgers, a team that should be ripe for the picking having completely lost their way in the second half of the season. This could be the chance for the Padres to get straightened out. If not, they could make the Dodgers suddenly feel healthy again.

With their collapse this early, should the Padres not turn it around, they might not attract the notice of the 1964 Phillies, 1978 Red Sox, or more recently, 2007 Mets more modest collapse giving up a 5 game lead in September to the Phillies but looking pathetic doing so.

Having led the division for so long and holding the National League’s best record for most of the summer, the Padres stand to look historically hysterical, but keep in mind this was a team that looked like they’d be bottom dwellers in April likely to be shedding players in a fire sale in July rather than adding talent.

Meanwhile, how did the St. Louis Cardinals fall seven games behind Cincinnati?

On August 11th, they had just swept Cincinnati three games and led them by a game. While the two teams ran neck and neck most of the season, Tony LaRussa’s boys looked like they were getting ready to put the Reds in a headlock. They’d beat the Cubs in their next game before going on a five game losing streak and go 4-11 for the rest of August. They’re now seven games out.

Can this happen some more? Consider this, the Texas Rangers once looking unstoppable in 1st place in the American League West have now lost seven out of their last ten games. They lead Oakland by eight games, and Oakland’s record is two games under .500.

As that great Philosopher, Yogi Berra, noted, “It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”

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