With last night’s 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the San Diego Padres playoff hopes are all but dashed.  For the Padres to reclaim the National League West division crown from the surging Giants, the Pods must not only sweep the weekend series but win a one-game playoff as well.

The Wild Card was once within reach for Thin Gwynn and the Fathers, but the determined Braves hold a 2 game lead with three to play.  In other words, the Padres pretty much removed themselves from playoff contention.   Check that: a team that was once a playoff near-certainty is one loss from making tee times.  How did this happen? How could this happen?

Quite simply, the Padres are out of games.  The chart below shows their playoff probability numbers for the season (courtesy of coolstandings.com). Cue the nosedive!

On August 26th, the Padres had a better than 97% chance of making the playoffs. With the best interests of baseball in mind, they promptly lost 10 straight games; throwing the divisional race wide open in addition to making the Wild Card a firefight to the finish.

10 games. One 10 game streak pretty much undid the Padres entire season. Worse yet, they didn’t even play that badly down the stretch. The Giants (and to a lesser extent, the Rockies) caught fire in September while the Braves held firm, making life hell on the team that plays in heaven. Examine the monthly records of all three teams with everything to play for this coming weekend.

Record by Month April May June July August September
Giants 13-9 14-14 13-14 20-8 13-15 18-8
Padres 15-8 16-12 15-12 14-10 16-13 12-16
Braves 9-14 20-8 17-11 13-11 18-11 13-14

The Friars month of September is nominally worse than the Giants August swoon but a tremendous upgrade over the Braves’s “Wait, you mean Troy Glaus shouldn’t play every day?” April. The Braves lost more than they won in September but still stand poised to scoop the Wild Card berth.

All games count the same in the standings, we’re often told. While that is true and a win is a win, the Padres clearly demonstrate that staying at the top is just as important as getting there.