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Playing Spoiler: San Diego Padres a Thorn in The Side Of Playoff Teams

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer ISeptember 5, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Catcher Nick Hundley (L) #4 and pitcher Heath Bell #21 of the San Diego Padres congratulate one another following their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Padres defeated the Dodgers 2-0.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Though the San Diego Padres are well out of the playoff race, this team has continued to play with heart and play with the mindset of "we can decide who makes the playoffs."

With just under a month to go in major league baseball's regular season, the San Diego Padres could play every game with very little sense of urgency. After all, they've been out of the playoff hunt for the better part of three months.

Instead, the Padres have played better in the past two months than they have the rest of the 2009 season and they've taken the role of "spoiler."

You've seen the Padres take two of three from the Atlanta Braves who are currently fighting to get back into the National League wild card race, currently five games back of the leading Colorado Rockies.

You also saw them, just recently, take two of three from the Florida Marlins who are just four games back of the Rockies in the wild card race.

Then, this past Friday night, the Padres shut out the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 on a great outing from left hander Wade LeBlanc, a pitcher the Dodgers took apart the first two times they faced him.

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Combine that with the Rockies and San Francisco Giants both winning last night, it pulled those two teams a full game closer to the Dodgers who have been slowly losing their grip of the NL West crown.

If you look at the Padres' remaining schedule in September, you'll see that they have a definite chance to play spoiler fo someone's playoff chances. They'll have two more games remaining with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon before stretch of nine straight games against NL West opponents.

After their series with the Dodgers, the Padres will travel north to San Francisco for a three game set then return home to Petco Park for three against the wild card leading Colorado Rockies and then three against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The games against the Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies are huge for all involved. The Dodgers have to be looking over their shoulder after losing a sizeable lead in the division.

The Giants and Rockies are not only fighting for that wild card spot, but you know they would love to catch the Dodgers and put them out of the playoff race all together.

The Padres haven't given up the season, they continue to play like they are still in the race. They've gotten strong pitching from LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, Mat Latos and Kevin Correia. Not to mention strong work out of their bullpen from guys like Joe Thatcher, Luke Gregerson and closer Heath Bell who notched his 34th save of the season in the Padres 2-0 win over the Dodgers.

Not only that, but their offense has been putting up runs as well, something fans didn't see a whole lot of for the first few months of the season. Their getting good production from young players like Will Venable, Everth Cabrera, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and of course you know what you get with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

The way this team has been playing gives fans, like myself, a lot to look forward to when the 2010 season rolls around.

But, until then, we get one more month to watch the Padres and one more month to root for them to end someone's playoff chances. It's the teams that take them lightly and the teams that look past San Diego that will be the ones wondering what happened.

Enjoy the rest of the season Padre fans, it could be a fun ride to the end.

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