Deflated Brew Crew give puzzling Padres a shot to shine in the playoffs

It wasn’t even close to the Curse of the Bambino. That would be a bit too dramatic. That said, it’s hard to ignore the irony. When the Milwaukee Brewers front office traded the club’s esteemed closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres, a shocked Blue Crew clubhouse seemed to throw in the towel. It seemed like every player knew that their trusted teammate was shipped out to a rival club that would eventually knock them out.

“A lot of things don’t make sense,” said a stunned Devin Williams, Hader’s setup guy, after the swap. “I was surprised and don’t have much else to say. I just want to win.”

Indeed, Milwaukee had appeared in the post season for five consecutive years, and held a four game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central before the Hader move. Afterwards, the club went 27-30 with a collapsing bullpen that also had a domino effect on a struggling offense, frequently faced with fighting back from behind. Hader himself had scuffled a bit in his last couple of weeks with the Brewers, and also for a while in San Diego. The flame-throwing southpaw was mentally spent after his wife and baby boy suffered complications during birth. But Milwaukee ownership was reportedly concerned about Hader’s arbitration advantages this winter, and decided to pull the trigger.

Now Hader’s heater and filthy slider have come back to life in San Diego, bolstering an already elite bunch of “bomberos” in the pen. So when Milwaukee was embarrassed by the young Miami Marlins in the season’s final weekend, it didn’t matter that San Diego also lost their series against the Chicago White Sox. It simply became a numbers game. Even the fans at American Family Field seemed to lose interest, all stemming from the Hader fallout. By comparison, San Diego’s Petco Park has entertained sellout crowds all season, with plenty of super stars already creating excitement beyond the team’s new ace.

It’s hard to predict how far the Padre brown and gold could go in this October tournament, because they have been a group that have basically underperformed. Then again, Juan Soto and Josh Bell are starting to finally heat up to take some pressure off MVP candidate Manny Machado, and the starting rotation anchored by Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove has been rock solid. Can they beat the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, who dominated every series during the regular season? Bob Melvin, a veteran skipper who never loses his cool, is not intimated.

“Every time we play the Dodgers, I think we match up well against them,” he noted.

And now, of course, the Padres have a secret weapon in Josh Hader, thanks to the penny-pinching Brewers. He might be the missing link to ultimate success.

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