First, the Padres must best the Cardinals, losers in a World Series sweep administered by the Red Sox last October. Oh yes, the Padres finished 4-3 with St. Louis including wins in three of the four games played from May 5-8, the last time the two teams met at venerable old Busch Stadium. So there's a little confidence there."Well, I bet if they had their hand on a bible they'll tell you they don't think we're really good because they beat us four of seven," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "So I hope we throw out the regular season. We saw them play well and they played well enough to win a championship. And that's what counts. They're in the tournament." The Padres fed off a 20-6 franchise-record May mark to lead the injury-riddled division every day since May 26. Their lead was never larger than seven games and the Diamondbacks came as close as one game away at the beginning of August. The Padres followed a 10-17 June with a 8-18 July, but from then on they finished out the season with 31-26 mark. "We had a bad June and July, but offset that with a pretty good August and September," Alderson said. "So you can forget what happened in June and July. And maybe by next week, you can also forget what we did in August and September." If you're asking for small favors, it's the first time the Padres have put together back-to-back winning seasons since 1991-92, when the team was 84-78, and yes, 82-80. The Padres have had just 13 .500-or-better seasons and four postseason appearances in the 37-year history of the franchise. They've been to the World Series twice (1984 and 1998) and lost both times. Since Bruce Bochy took over as manager in 1995, he's only had four winning seasons, including 1996 and 1998, the last two times the Padres were in the playoffs. The only other time the Padres made the playoffs, Bochy was a backup catcher on the 1984 squad under Dick Williams, who's the only manager in club history to lead the team to four consecutive .500-or-better seasons (1982-85). It's an ignominious history, to say the least, punctuated by this year's romp through a once-in-a-generation NL West in which the other four teams finished a combined 68 games under .500. "The west was not the typical west [this year]," said Jake Peavy, San Diego's Game 1 starter against the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. "We haven't exactly done it the way we drew it up in Spring Training, but the bottom line is we're here, we're expected to be here and we think we can win. There's 25 guys in that clubhouse who expect to come in here and win. "I'm not making that up."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.