The Padres have been there twice, having lost to two of the strongest teams of their eras: the 1984 Tigers and the 1998 Yankees. Composite record: 1-8. If they are going to make it again it will be dictated by their play during the next eight weeks.
"I think all three will happen at some point, because statistically they have to," Padres manager Bud Black said after his club defeated the D-backs, 10-1, to salvage the last game of the series on Sunday. "But the greatest satisfaction would be winning a World Series."
The no-hit note became germane again on Sunday as Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow flirted with what would have been the sixth of the year in Major League Baseball while striking out 17 against the Rays in Toronto.
As luck would have it, with two outs in the ninth, Evan Longoria slashed an artificial-turf grounder off the glove of Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, who made a diving attempt to stab it, but to no avail, as the ball bounced into right field for a single.
Considering the vagaries of baseball, it would've been the fourth time in little more than a year that the Rays, born along with the D-backs in 1998, would've been no-hit. Two of them were perfect games: Mark Buehrle and Dallas Braden, the other was the eight-walk effort by Edwin Jackson. In addition, Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in Rays' history against the Tigers on July 26.
"You couldn't make this stuff up if you wanted to," Black said with a laugh.
The D-backs have two no-hitters in their short history, including Jackson's earlier this year and a Randy Johnson perfect game. Kelly Johnson's cycle last month was the fourth in team history. They've also won the World Series, defeating the Yankees in 2001.
The Padres have won National League pennants in 1984 and '98, plus NL West titles in '96, 2005 and '06. And here they stand.
Any chance of no-hitter by young Mat Latos on Sunday went by the boards when Stephen Drew doubled with one out in the second inning. Latos allowed only two hits in six innings to win his 12th game of the season. It was good enough, but not no-hit worthy.
"A no-hitter, a perfect game, would be fantastic," said Latos, who tossed a one-hitter for the Padres at San Francisco this past May 13. "It would be one of the highlights of our history. It's one of those things, though, that if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't it doesn't. At the end of the day, the most important thing is getting a 'W.' The rest will take care of itself."
The Padres did just that on Sunday, clicking off their 64th win and another day on the schedule. They have 52 more games to go.
With 10 runs and 12 hits, it was a breakout game for the Padres, who came in with a .219 team batting average and a 4.32 ERA to show for the previous nine games, six losses.
Despite losing two of three here this weekend to the 69-loss D-backs, the Padres remain two games ahead of the second-place Giants in the National League West.
The two NL West teams have 10 games left against each other, including a trio next weekend at AT&T Park. They meet again for a four-game series at San Diego's PETCO Park from Sept. 9-12, then finish the season with a three-game set at San Francisco from Oct. 1-3.
With the Rockies and Dodgers still very much in contention, the division race may not be decided until that final weekend, a probability that the pundits didn't foresee for the Padres during Spring Training.
"I love being the underdog," Latos said. "Some people still doubt us as a team. I don't really understand it. Basically, all year we've been in first place."
They've done it with just enough starting pitching, just enough offense, steady defense and a lights-out bullpen, undoubtedly the best in the NL. Whether that will be enough to carry them all the way to the Promised Land will be played out during the next two months.
"These guys over there have had a great year," said D-backs interim manager Kirk Gibson. "This is only the second mini-losing streak they've gone through all season. It's a great test of their character. It's interesting to be in their shoes. I've been there. They have to be strong in their belief about themselves."
Speaking of Gibson, he has own page in Padres lore.
It was Gibson's three-run homer off Rich "Goose" Gossage in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 1984 World Series at Tiger Stadium that sealed the title for the Tigers. Gibson hit two homers in that game.
Gibson had been 1-for-9 with seven strikeouts in his career against Gossage coming into that at-bat, and the future Hall of Famer refused to intentionally walk Gibson with first base open.
Longtime Padres fans know how that turned out. It was 14 years before the Padres made it back to the World Series. Now it has been another 12. Like the lack of a no-hitter or cycle, it's all a living part of San Diego baseball history.