If the Padres don't make it through the National League Division Series, it won't have anything to do with the magnitude of the event.In the view of Game 1 starter Jake Peavy, an All-Star at 24 with dominant stuff and a competitive edge matched by few peers, the National League West champions are tough enough to hold their ground against anybody. "We're not going to be intimidated," Peavy said in anticipation of his postseason debut. "We know we're not going to be favored. It doesn't matter. We know that we're capable of playing good baseball, championship-caliber baseball. "We've got some professionals who are not going to be in awe and some young guys who are hungry to see what this is about. I think we're capable of playing good baseball when it counts." Manager Bruce Bochy has Peavy poised to go in Games 1 and 4, if necessary, with two off-days giving the Padres the opportunity to pitch their ace twice in the best-of-five series against the St. Louis Cardinals. "I'm sure the other side would say the same thing," Bochy said, "but we'd say it's an advantage for us getting our ace out there for Game 4. "Jake's one of those special guys. He loves to pitch in big games. He knows how to prepare himself, and he has electric stuff." Peavy, who finished 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA but easily could have won 18 to 20 games with more run support, had a remarkable strikeouts-to-walks ratio of more than 4-1: 216 to 50 in 203 innings. He authored three shutouts and held opponents to a .217 batting average. The man from Mobile, Ala., points to the fact that the Padres have elevated all season to the level of the competition. "We've played our best ball against the best teams, the best pitchers," Peavy said. "I think that says a lot about the character of our ballclub." Derided for their mediocre record all season, the Padres saved their finest efforts for the league's elite. They were 5-1 against the NL East champion Braves and on the verge of doing something no NL team had achieved against Atlanta -- sweeping the season series -- before letting the final game in Atlanta get away in the late innings. The Friars were 4-3 against the NL Central champion Cardinals, taking three of four in a May series in St. Louis, including the first three games. Finally, they were 12-6 against the Giants, their prime competition in the NL West, taking three of four in the last week of the season to clinch.
The team's three dominant players and personalities throughout the injury-marred campaign were Peavy, closer Trevor Hoffman and outfielder Brian Giles.Peavy missed only two starts in spite of a respiratory infection in June that weakened him for a month and late-season shoulder soreness. He says he's sound now and ready to go. "Jake has shown why he's a No. 1 guy all season," Giles said. "He goes out there when you need him most and competes, shuts teams down." "He's been our horse," said Hoffman, the league's preeminent closer. "Jake is tough and competitive -- and a great talent." Versatile veteran Robert Fick, who caught Peavy when Ramon Hernandez was injured, emerged from one of Jake's superior outings and said, "Man, is that guy a great pitcher. His stuff is awesome. I think he's the best pitcher in baseball."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.