Notes: Bochy considers starting Greene
Pads skipper hesitant, however, due to shortstop's long layoff
ST. LOUIS -- He hasn't started a game since Aug. 17, when he aggravated a ligament tear in his left middle finger swinging a bat. But Padres shortstop Khalil Greene has been making steady progress and could get the call in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium, manager Bruce Bochy hinted during Friday's workout."Khalil, he's improving," Bochy said, looking for silver linings with a 2-0 deficit, one loss away from the offseason. "I think he's swinging the bat well. "We're going to talk about it again, as far as his status. Whether he plays or not, I don't have the lineup out yet. But he's certainly at the point where he probably could play, so that will be a question that we'll answer [Saturday]." Greene's return, along with Josh Barfield at second, would have the Padres back to full strength up the middle, which was the strength of a solid, and at times, spectacular defense for most of the season. It could be similar to the way Albert Pujols felt when he looked at the Cards' Game 1 lineup and everything felt right again with David Eckstein back at shortstop and Jim Edmonds returning to center field. Greene has been supportive of his replacement, Geoff Blum, throughout his absence, repeatedly suggesting that in a slightly diminished condition, he didn't think he could improve on Blum's overall performance. Inserted late, Greene made several pivotal defensive plays in the final two games of the regular season against Arizona to help San Diego clinch the NL West title. He's 0-for-3 with a walk since coming back. "It has been feeling better, but I haven't really played in a long time," Greene said. "I'm getting a feel for the game again, the rhythm and pace. Whatever they want to do is fine with me, whatever they think is best for the team." Given Blum's .536 career average against Cardinals Game 3 starter Jeff Suppan in 16 at-bats, the Padres could move the versatile switch-hitter to third if they decide Greene is ready to give it a shot. Greene is 3-for-9 against Suppan with two doubles. "Exactly, it is a leap of faith if I throw him out there, I know that," Bochy said in response to a question about playing Greene after such a long layoff. "This kid really hasn't had enough at-bats to be comfortable up there. But you know, what Khalil gives you, he's one of the better shortstops in the game.
"I think Blum has done a good job, so that's why chances are, [Greene] probably will not be out there -- the fact he hasn't played in such a long time."But I do have the ability to change my mind. Sometimes you change things to change things. We've struggled [for] two games, and so that's kind of the debate right now, whether we let him go or not." History in the cards? Paul Lo Duca tagged out two Dodgers at home on the same play. Jose Lima won a playoff game for the Dodgers against St. Louis. Albert Pujols actually has endured entire games without a single hit. See? Stranger things have happened than the Padres taking three in a row from the Cards and moving on to the National League Championship Series. Granted, it hasn't happened since the advent of divisional playoffs in 1995. No NL team has rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five NLDS to advance. But it has happened twice in the American League -- and the Padres' Todd Walker was right there in the middle of it in 2003 for the Red Sox, smoking line drives and home runs as they forced the A's to cough up a 2-0 lead. Even more dramatically, three Padres -- Dave Roberts, Alan Embree and Mark Bellhorn -- were with the 2004 Red Sox when they stormed back from an 0-3 deficit to shock the Yankees in the ALCS on their way to a World Series triumph. Roberts, who figured prominently in the historic comeback with arguably the most important stolen base in baseball history in Game 4 against the Yanks, will draw on that memory on Saturday and try to ignite an offensive brushfire for the Padres when they send Chris Young out to face Suppan in Game 3 at Busch Stadium. "You have to get that first one and go from there," Roberts said. "You'll put too much pressure on yourself if you look beyond the game you're playing. "Win one game, then another one. Start some momentum building. But it has to start with a lead. We need to get an early lead. We've had some success against Jeff Suppan, and we've played well on the road all year. Hopefully, we can get a lead and put some pressure on them." Remember '03: That's Walker's message to the troops. He sees parallels between the Padres' plight and where the '03 Red Sox stood after the first two games against the A's and their great pitching staff. Walker acknowledges that the A's won the first two at home, giving Boston Games 3 and 4 at Fenway Park -- theoretically, at least, a better position than the Padres are in. But these quirky, unpredictable Padres, with their vastly superior road offense, render traditional form and logic meaningless. "They really haven't given us a chance to breathe in the first two games," Walker said. "They can't pitch any better than they have with [Chris] Carpenter and [Jeff] Weaver. It's like when the A's shut us down those first two games. But then things changed. I've seen how it can happen, so I'm not overly concerned. "Sure, it's tough to lose two at home, but with this team, it isn't even significant where we play. I almost think we'd rather play them on the road." Numbers game: Roberts wasn't kidding when he pointed out that the Padres players have enjoyed success against Suppan. Check out some of these other career numbers against the veteran right-hander, starting at the top: Roberts, .636 with a double, homer and a walk in 11 at-bats; Mike Piazza, .471 with five homers in 17 at-bats; Adrian Gonzalez, .500 with a double and a homer in four at-bats; Brian Giles, .292 with two homers, a double and five walks in 24 at-bats; and Walker, .286 with a double, homer and two walks in 35 at-bats. In a much smaller sample, taken essentially from his seven innings of one-run, three-hit work at Busch Stadium in his last outing nine days ago, Young has been a mystery to the Cards. The Redbirds regulars are a combined 4-for-25 against the 6-foot-10 tower of power, all singles. Pujols singled in three at-bats with a strikeout, the single coming after he took a borderline 2-2 pitch on the inside corner at the knees. La Russa 8, Bochy 0: That's where it stands in three postseason series -- 1996, 2005, 2006 -- between Tony La Russa's Cards and Bochy's Padres. It's a matter the latter clearly would like to change in no uncertain terms. Asked if he felt snake-bit against La Russa, Bochy said: "You start to feel like that, believe me. This is our third time going against him, and I know a lot of [Padres players] don't know, but I know I haven't beaten him in a postseason game yet. "It's going to take good pitching, timely hitting, good defense. They've been doing that; that's why they won the first two games."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.