The Padres prevailed over the Cardinals by a score of 4-0 in the decisive Game 3 of the National League Wild Card Series (box score) on Friday night. As a result, the Padres take the best-of-three series by a count of two games to one and will advance to the NLDS and face the division rival Dodgers in that best-of-five series. The Cardinals, meantime, see their 2020 season come to an end. St. Louis can, however, take some consoling pride in the fact that that made the postseason despite having to play 53 games in 44 days because of their COVID-related shutdown earlier in the season.
In Game 3, the Padres managed to blank the Cardinals despite an uncertain pitching situation. Thanks to injuries in the rotation and heavy use of the bullpen in Games 1 and 2, San Diego manager Jayce Tingler was left scrambling in advance of Game 3.
On offense, the Padres got a pair of doubles and a pair of RBI from Eric Hosmer. In the eighth, Jake Cronenworth hit the game's lone home run, a solo shot off Alex Reyes to provide the final margin of victory.
Now for some things to know about this one.
The 'Johnny Wholestaff' approach worked for Padres
Yep, circumstances forced Tingler to use nine pitchers in the Game 3 win. Craig Stammen took the ball initially and made his first start since 2010. Stammen's night was brief by starter standards, but that was by design. The next eight pitchers accounted for the final 22 outs of the game. All nine hurlers combined to allow just four hits, three of them singles. It culminated with Trevor Rosenthal's striking out the side in the ninth against his former team. Along the way, the Padres' pitching staff and Tingler's lever-pulling made some history:
The #Padres are just the second team in baseball history, regular season or #postseason, to shut out an opponent through nine innings using nine pitchers – the Indians did so on Sept. 17, 2016, a game that went 10 innings (Andrew Miller pitched the 9th and 10th).— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) October 3, 2020
Across the way, the Cardinals used just two pitchers, Reyes and starter Jack Flaherty. The Padres were in such straits because their top two starters, Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, were out with injury and because they used six relievers in each of the first two games of this series. It all worked out in the end, though.
The Cardinals' defense had a rare off night
St. Louis had perhaps the best defense in baseball during the regular season and during 2019. So they're not accustomed to costly mishaps. Costly mishaps, though, played a major role in Game 3. Kolten Wong, typically the best defensive second baseman in the game, committed a throwing error to give the Padres two on with no out in the seventh. Later that same frame, third baseman Tommy Edman, also normally a defensive asset, somehow managed to get zero outs on this play:
It's no exaggeration to say the series hinged on that seventh inning, and that had much do with the Cardinals' lapses in the field.
Tatis Jr. electrified with the glove
NL MVP candidate Fernando Tatis Jr. came into Game 3 having done it with the bat in the Wild Card Series. Through the first two games of the series, Tatis Jr. had a slash line of .444/.500/1.611 with two homers and five times on base. In Game 3, Tatis was again productive at the dish, as he tallied a double and two walks. However, the shortstop made the biggest impression with his work afield.
And most especially Exhibit B:
By way of reminder, he's still just 21 years of age.
The 'Centrals' had a brutal postseason
The NL-AL Central bubble did not exactly cover itself in glory during the Wild Card Series. Combined, they put seven teams in the postseason, and those seven teams all lost in the first round. They were 2-14 in those games. In the four elimination games played by NL Central teams, none of those NL Central teams scored a single run. On the upside, that the Centrals washed out to such an unlikely extent helped us get an intradivsional rivalry in each of the League Division Series about to be played.