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Disappointing Padres perplex owner

Disappointing Padres perplex owner

SAN DIEGO -- It was the eighth inning of another playoff game Thursday and John Moores was beside himself.

The Padres' majority owner sat in a private box behind home plate on the press level at three-year-old PETCO Park, watching his ballclub lose another National League Division Series game to the Cardinals. And this one obviously hurt more than some of the others.

"I'm monumentally disappointed," Moores said as his club dropped a 2-0 decision to fall behind by the same count in the best-of-five series that moves on to St. Louis for what could be the clinching game Saturday. "This year we were supposed to win this thing."

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The Padres have gone to the playoffs five times in their 38-year history, and each of the first four times they were the underdogs.

This year was supposed to be a little different. The Cardinals entered the postseason listing like a deflated balloon and backed in on the final day of the season, while the Padres had to win almost every day the last two weeks just to make it.

It was the first time in club history that the Padres had captured home-field advantage by their own volition, and their tempo coming in was highly upbeat. Since then, Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols and Jeff Weaver have put the kibosh on San Diego's hopes again and the Padres' offense has generated only a run on 10 hits.

"It's been like men playing boys," Moores said.

Moores purchased the franchise from Tom Werner and his gang of 15 just before the 1995 season, and under his watch the Padres are 0-8 against the Cards in NLDS games dating back to 1996. After 10 years, he's part of the club's manifest destiny. They are a team that somehow never seems to get it right at crunch time, a pattern that dates back to previous owners.

No matter how poorly the Cardinals were playing, when the bright lights came on this week, they shot right into postseason mode, picking up where most Tony La Russa teams have left off. At the same time, the Padres have shrunk into nothing men. It's the same old sad, recurring story.

"In 1996, we weren't supposed to win and we didn't," Moores lamented. "In 1998, we weren't supposed to win. We beat the Astros and the Braves and went to the World Series. Last year, we weren't supposed to win. This year, I feel we're a better team overall than these guys and we're not getting it done. The bats have gone silent. We haven't made the plays."

The fourth inning was the key to both games.

On Tuesday, a botched foul pop by potential Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza gave Pujols another chance and he hit a two-run homer. On Thursday, a ball Dave Roberts should have caught in left field led to a Preston Wilson double. That brought Pujols to the plate with a runner on second and none out. Manager Bruce Bochy had David Wells pitch to Pujols, who promptly lined an RBI single to left.

Pujols tried to take second on the throw to the plate, and when Todd Walker and Geoff Blum blew the rundown, Pujols was safe. Two batters later, Pujols scored on an infield single. Game over and out.

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Moores said he was baffled when aked to explain his club's play.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I was down in the clubhouse before the game and they seemed pretty chipper."

Moores was anything but chipper as the final two innings played out, the Padres ending it with a whimper on a called third strike -- Adam Wainwright to Russell Branyan. It was their 20th whiff of the series and ninth on the afternoon.

By the conclusion, Moores looked sapped. His eyes were sunken and his complexion grim.

"I haven't slept for the last two weeks," Moores said. "This has been a different kind of season. It's been very intense."

He gave props to Bochy and general manager Kevin Towers for the jobs they've done this season. Bochy, he said, "had exceeded all expectations." Towers, he added, has been a better GM under the auspices of Sandy Alderson, who entered the Padres' picture as chief executive early in the 2005 season.

"I have more confidence in him putting this team together than I did three years ago," Moores said. "The combination of Sandy and Kevin has worked."

Still, when asked if the manager would be back in 2007, Moores was noncommittal.

"I wouldn't begin to tell Sandy what to do in that situation," he said. "Those guys work for him. They don't work for me."

Towers and Bochy have been mainstays of the organization since Moores bought the team, Bochy replacing Jim Riggleman as manager in 1995 and Towers replacing Randy Smith as GM in 1996. Consequently, they have presided over this postseason ride: a 3-9 record in the NLDS, a 4-2 record in the NLCS and an 0-4 World Series mark.

The game done, Moores slumped back in his chair with all this to consider.

"I'm going somewhere to sulk," he said.

Actually, he could use some rest.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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