SAN DIEGO (AP) Given a chance to catch their breath after a crazy month and a half, the St. Louis Cardinals settled into the playoffs with yet another win against the San Diego Padres.
Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run during a four-run first inning, St. Louis' bullpen held strong after starter Kwang Hyun Kim stumbled in his playoff debut and the Cardinals ruined the Padres' long-awaited return to the playoffs with a 7-4 victory Wednesday in the opener of their NL wild-card series.
The Cardinals got a welcome two days off before this series began. They came after a season-closing grind that saw them play 53 games in 44 days, including 11 doubleheaders, with only two days off. The team had its season suspended for 14 games from late July to mid-August after 10 players and eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19 and had to scramble to fit in the makeups.
''It was nice. We needed them,'' Goldschmidt said. ''The whole last whatever, 45 days, we were playing every day, guys were playing as hard as they could but can't operate at 100% for that long. It was nice to kind of recharge and be 100% or close to it and just be ready to go.''
The Cardinals need one more win to eliminate the Padres from the postseason for the fourth time since 1996. They swept the Padres in the NL Division Series in 1996 and 2005, and won 3-1 in 2006, which was the last time San Diego made the postseason. Game 2 is Thursday.
Right-hander Chris Paddack (0-1) failed to give the Padres the boost they desperately needed after Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet were left off the wild-card roster due to injuries suffered in their final regular-season starts.
Paddack lasted only 2 1/3 innings and gave up six runs.
After retiring leadoff batter Kolten Wong, Paddack allowed the next five batters to reach. San Diego native Tommy Edman singled and Goldschmidt homered to left. Dylan Carlson doubled, 38-year-old Yadier Molina hit an RBI single and Paul DeJong doubled before Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly.
''We didn't come out and say we needed to be aggressive, I just think guys were ready to hit,'' Goldschmidt said. ''He threw what, 10 strikes to start the game, so it wasn't like we were swinging at stuff out of the zone. It just happened that we got hits.''
Paddack allowed three straight hits to open the third, including DeJong's RBI single, before being replaced by Matt Strahm. Carpenter added an RBI single for a 6-2 lead.
Paddack allowed eight hits, struck out one and walked none.
''I noticed early that they were jumping on my fastball,'' Paddack said. ''I thought we did an awesome job of executing our pitches. I guess that's postseason baseball. I take all the blame for Game 1.
''The game speeds up in a postseason start,'' he added. ''Every pitch I was mentally fatigued because I knew every pitch was important.''
The Cardinals ''came out swinging first pitch and they barreled some balls up,'' Padres rookie manager Jayce Tingler said. ''He never really got the chance to settle in and they came out really aggressive and found some barrels.''
Giovanny Gallegos (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win and Alex Reyes got the last four outs for the save. Five relievers combined for 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and an unearned run.
Kim, a 32-year-old rookie, allowed three runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked two. He signed with the Cardinals after playing 13 seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization, including winning four championships and one MVP Award. He made three relief appearances for Korea at Petco Park in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Kim allowed Eric Hosmer's sac fly in the first, Aaron Nola's sac fly in the second and Tommy Pham's RBI single in the third.
Nola hit another sac fly in the sixth. Fernando Tatis Jr., who had reached twice, scored twice and hit a ball to the warning track in right, struck out with runners on first and second to end the inning.
Tatis came up with two on and two out in the eighth and grounded out. Rookie Jake Cronenworth had a baserunning blunder in both the sixth and eighth.
Dexter Fowler hit an RBI single in the ninth off Trevor Rosenthal, who started his big league career with the Cardinals.
St. Louis' Harrison Bader struck out five times. The center fielder did make a nice catch up against the fence of Wil Myers' fly ball to end the game.
The Padres dropped to 0-4 in the postseason at Petco Park, all against the Cardinals.
Padres: GM A.J. Preller said the Padres decided Clevinger (right elbow impingement) and Lamet (biceps tightness) wouldn't be capable of making at least 80-pitch starts.
The 17-year-veteran played in his 99th career playoff game, tying Tino Martinez for sixth all-time.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (5-3, 3.15 ERA) is scheduled to start Game 2 on Thursday. The 39-year-old made his career postseason debut at Petco Park in Game 1 of the 2006 NL Division Series and got the save in Game 2. The Cardinals won the series 3-1 and went on to win the World Series.
Padres: RHP Zach Davies (7-4, 2.73) is set to go for the Padres after Clevinger and Lamet were left off the wild-card roster. Davies made one appearance for Milwaukee in the 2018 NLCS against Los Angeles.
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