Playoff rematch: Revisiting the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals NLDS

We continue our preview of the Wild Card Round with a look at some St. Louis Cardinals’ history. The San Diego Padres haven’t been to the playoffs since they faced the Cardinals in 2006. Let’s take a look back.

The St. Louis Cardinals have officially made the 2020 MLB playoffs. Their reward? Facing the upstart San Diego Padres. With their new jerseys, electric young talent, and prolific offense, “Slam Diego” has brought the Padres back to the postseason for the first time since 2006. Of course, baseball has to have its weird coincidences– the Padres’ last postseason appearance in 2006 was against the St. Louis Cardinals.

There are only two players left from the 2006 National League Division Series – Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Yadi was in his second full year in the league, and hadn’t won a gold glove or made an All-Star game yet. Waino was a rookie closer, still a few weeks away from making a name for his incredible curveball. It’s amazing how much has changed.

The 2006 Padres were division champions. Led by ace Jake Peavy, this team was back for revenge after being swept in the NLDS the year before by the Cardinals. Bruce Bochy was in his 14th (and ultimately final) year as manager. The free-agent signing of Mike Piazza and the trade for breakout superstar Adrian Gonzalez had strengthened their squad, and they came in as heavy favorites against the Cardinals.

The San Diego supporting cast was strong, too. Mike Cameron won a Gold Glove for the Padres in center field, Chris Young and former Cardinal Woody Williams combined with Peavy to form an impressive starting rotation, and Trevor Hoffman came into the playoffs as the new leader in career saves.

On the other hand, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, had sort of limped into the postseason. Injuries had ruined much of their year, but they won enough games down the stretch to hold off the Houston Astros and earn a playoff berth.

Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, and Jeff Weaver led the rotation. Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds were supported by World Series MVP David Eckstein and a ragtag group of Aaron Miles, Ronnie Belliard, and the late Chris Duncan. The bullpen lost Jason Isringhausen, but rookie Adam Wainwright, current scouting director Randy Flores, and new TV color-man Brad Thompson used their Dave Duncan magic to get the job done. I love looking back on this team– they were a truly extraordinary group.

Carpenter faced Peavy in game one of the Division Series. An Albert Pujols home run was the difference, and the Cardinals won 5-1. In game two, Jeff Weaver took the mound against David Wells. Weaver, Flores, Josh Kinney, Tyler Johnson, and Wainwright combined for a four-hit shutout, and the Cardinals won 2-0.

Game three came back to St. Louis. The Padres scored three runs off Jeff Suppan in the fourth inning, and Padres starter Chris Young quieted the Cardinal offense. So Taguchi hit a solo home run in the eighth, but it wasn’t enough. The Padres had their first win of the playoffs– to this day they haven’t won since. Chris Carpenter took the mound on short rest against former teammate Woody Williams in game four. A Juan Encarnacion triple in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie, and the Cardinals won 6-2.

Just like 14 years ago, the 2020 Padres come into this matchup as the favorite. Jake Peavy and Chris Young have been replaced by Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger. Young superstar Adrian Gonzalez has become generational talent Fernando Tatis. Trevor Hoffman’s role at the back of the bullpen has been filled with deadline-acquisition and former Cardinal Trevor Rosenthal. The names have changed, but once again, San Diego is the real deal.

The 2020 St. Louis Cardinals share some of the regular season adversity faced by the 2006 squad. Injuries to key players wreaked havoc on that team, and everyone is counting them out. A win on the last day of the regular season kept their playoff hopes alive, and now the Cardinals are looking to prove that they belong.

Most Cardinal fans look back on the 2006 season and think of the NLCS against the Mets or the World Series against the Tigers. None of those games were possible, however, without the 3-1 victory over the San Diego Padres. On Wednesday, the Cardinals begin another playoff journey with a matchup against San Diego. I’ll just end with that.

Next: Predicting the lineup and rotation against the Padres

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If you’re looking closer at the rosters, there are a few other random connections to be made between the current Cardinals and the 2006 NLDS. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and former Cardinal Khalil Greene were both part of the San Diego lineup. And the 2006 Padres was the team that drafted David Freese. Another chapter in the San Diego-St. Louis story begins on Wednesday.