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Padres bound forward in 2010

Padres bound forward in 2010

SAN DIEGO -- Less than an hour after the Giants finished off the Padres on Sunday, a 3-0 victory that in one fell swoop eliminated San Diego from playoff contention and gave San Francisco the National League West crowd, Giants manager Bruce Bochy essentially gushed over ... his former team?

Bochy, the manager of the Padres from 1995-2006, spoke almost as highly of the Padres as he did his own team.

"I think you'd have to say they were the surprise team in our division," Bochy said. "... I don't think anybody saw them get to where they were at.

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"San Diego, what a year they had. I want to compliment them, what a year they had. They surprised everybody and [manager Bud Black] and his staff did a tremendous job there."

Yes, the Padres made an impression on a lot of people in 2010. A team pegged for a last-place finish by many in the NL West, instead led the division nearly the entire season to finish two victories shy of the postseason.

All with an Opening Day payroll that was second-lowest in the Major Leagues.

"People can push us down, but we did a bunch of things that nobody thought we could do. Even though we didn't get to our main goal, we proved some people wrong and we learned what a lot of our young guys are made of, and they're made of winners," said Padres closer Heath Bell, who saved 47 games. "We've got a lot of winners in this clubhouse. We just didn't come out on top."

Top 12 moments

The Padres had a 6 1/2-game lead in the NL West over the Giants on Aug. 25 but slipped into a 10-game losing streak at the end of the month, a dismal spell that stretched into the early days of September. That's when the Giants made up ground.

"Our last 35 games, we haven't scored runs. It's as simple as that," said Padres general manager Jed Hoyer. "Our pitching has been solid. You can't expect a pitching staff to hold a team to two or three runs every night.

"We went from a league-average offense for the first five months of the season to a team that was below average offensively."

The Padres were shut out 12 times in 2010, including five in their last 23 games.

"The timely hitting, probably more than anything, [has been the problem]," Black said. "I think earlier in the year, we got a lot of clutch hits. We won a lot of games 2-1, 3-2, which is our style.

"We just haven't gotten guys on base at the rate that we did earlier in the year, so the less guys you have on, the less times you have to score. We had more opportunities earlier in the year, and we cashed in a little more frequently."

Still, the Padres did plenty of things well this season. They ranked second in the Major Leagues in ERA (3.39) and tied for third-fewest errors (72). They had a winning record at home and on the road and, aside from the 10-game losing skid, were remarkably consistent.

"I think the most impressive thing is that, even during the last month, this team showed up every day to play," Hoyer said. "We've accumulated a lot of wins because we have been a well-prepared team."

Record: 90-72, second place in the National League West.

Defining moment: The Padres went into their Aug. 27 game at PETCO Park with a 76-50 record and a six-game lead over the Giants in the NL West. Trailing, 1-0, in the ninth inning, Phillies closer Brad Lidge walked in the tying run. In the 12th inning, long after starters Mat Latos and Roy Oswalt were gone, Jimmy Rollins scored the go-ahead run with a nifty, athletic slide. That loss came two games into a 10-game losing streak that allowed the Giants to get back in the race, eventually dooming the Padres. (More | ) A runner-up? The 3-0 loss to the Giants on Sunday, one that kept the Padres from a playoff to get into the postseason. (More | )

What went right: Run prevention. The Padres ranked among the top teams in the Major Leagues in turning balls in play into outs. They accomplished as much by pitching and playing better defense than their foes. They had a winning record on the road, got another big season from All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell and their pitching staff managed to make PETCO Park look and play like the Grand Canyon for opponents, especially the bullpen where Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams and Bell (47 saves) gave the Padres the top relief trio in baseball. Also, veteran shortstop Miguel Tejada, added before the Trade Deadline, gave the team a lift with his bat.

What went wrong: Easy. A 10-game losing streak that spanned from late August into September essentially proved to be the downfall of a team that spent nearly every day in first place in the National League West (well, until late September). The Padres hit .229 during September and were held to one or fewer runs seven times. The team had several players spend time on the disabled list in the second half, though it was utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. (right elbow strain) who they missed the most down the stretch. The Padres were shut out 12 times in 2010, five in their last 23 games.

Biggest surprise: That the Padres, with a payroll that was the second-lowest in the Major Leagues on Opening Day, were in first place nearly the entire season. To be sure, the Padres exceeded expectations by nearly everyone and won 15 more games in 2010 than they did the previous season. Individually, 22-year-old Mat Latos, in his first full Major League season, developed into one of the top pitchers in the Major Leagues, tossing a one-hit shutout against the Giants. Also, Tim Stauffer, a 2003 first-round pick, broke through and gave the team important innings, especially late in the season.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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