The season-defying moment came on Monday, Aug. 17 against the Texas Rangers with a “controversial” grand slam by superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. that put the Padres up by 11 runs that changed the entire season.
They eventually made history by hitting four grand slams in as many days, as well as becoming the first Major League Baseball (MLB) team to hit five grand slams in six days, which gave the Padres the nickname of “Slam” Diego.
The Padres were 11-12 (.478 win percentage) on the season, but went 26-11 (.702) following their record-breaking week. The perfect week against the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros gave the Padres the momentum they needed to clinch their first postseason berth in 14 years.
At the Aug. 31 trade deadline, San Diego went all out, trading for catchers Austin Nola and Jason Castro, who did more in a month than the previous catcher duo did all season last year. They also acquired a hot bat in first baseman Mitch Moreland and right-handed pitchers Austin Adams, Dan Altavilla, Trevor Rosenthal, and the best arm on the market in Mike Clevinger.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in San Diego on Sunday, Sept. 20, the Padres clinched their first postseason berth since 2006, the third-longest drought in the MLB going into this season. They won a 7-4 ballgame in 11 innings over the Seattle Mariners in a “road” game, although they did it at Petco Park after the series was moved due to heavy smoke in the Seattle area.
The Padres looked like they could make a big run in October and possibly make their first World Series appearance until their top two starters; Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, exited their respective starts due to injury. Clevinger would return for just one inning before finishing his season.
With their biggest starters out, they would face the St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-three Wild Card Series. The Padres had faced the Cardinals three times in the playoffs, losing each time in 1996, 2005 and 2006 in the first round.
After a 7-4 loss in Game 1, the Padres wouldn’t let down, rallying to break a four-run deficit in the sixth with back-to-back homers by Tatis Jr. and their $300-million man Manny Machado. They would go on to win 11-9 after a scare in the ninth inning that saw St. Louis’s go-ahead runner walk to the plate, although closer Trevor Rosenthal would shut down the rest of the lineup for a big win.
Game 3 was all Padres as they broke the postseason record with nine pitchers in nine innings for a 4-0 shutout win and moved on to the best-of-five Divisional Series against division rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Clevinger returned to the mound in Game 1, but after throwing just two pitches in the second inning,he left the game after re-injuring his elbow. The Dodgers took advantage of the San Diego bullpen, and they took Game 1. The Dodgers would eventually sweep the Padres to send San Diego home.
The Padres finished the season with a 37-23 record and a .617 win-percentage, their best win percentage in franchise history.
Although they lost their best starters in the final week of the regular-season, the Padres fought through the first round, changing history as they are now 1-for-4 in postseason series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Padres and the Friar Faithful look forward to an even better 2021.