Fernando Tatis Jr. has a soft spot for St. Louis. His dad played for the Cardinals and had a monster season with them 21 years ago, hitting 34 home runs and notching 107 RBIs.

But with his San Diego Padres about to face the Cardinals at 2 p.m. Wednesday to open their National League wild-card series, he’s hardening his heart.

“We’re going to step on the field, (and) we ain’t friends no more,” Tatis said.

Chris Paddack will take the mound at Petco Park for the favored Padres, as Kwang Hyun Kim starts Game 1 for the Cardinals.

That’s a concern, though, as the team continues to await word on Mike Clevinger, battling an elbow impingement, and Dinelson Lamet, who left a game against the Giants with biceps tightness.

Manager Jayce Tingler though, argued that the Padres had strong pitching even before trading for Clevinger, and will make do.

“We were a good team before Clevinger got here, so we’ve got guys that are capable and we’ve done it,” he said.

Still, the team has yet to announce starters for Games 2 and 3. Adam Wainwright follows for the Cardinals in Game 2 and Jack Flaherty in Game 3 if needed.

The Padres finished the season at 37-23 and survived the COVID-19 shortened affair relatively unscathed, pandemic-wise. The same cannot be said of the Cardinals, who went 17 days without taking the field in late July and August, and played a series of doubleheaders before locking in their playoff spot on Sunday.

They finished at 30-28, and Manager Mike Shildt described his team as playoff-ready because of how sorely the pandemic tested it.

“We’ve been in playoff mode since we came out of that quarantine,” he said on the MLB Network program High Heat.

According to MLB.com, the Padres have the advantage over the Cardinals throughout the lineup, especially at shortstop and third base, with MVP contenders Tatis and Manny Machado.

The advantage fell firmly to the Padres for the bullpen, but with questions about the health of Clevenger and Lamet, the stance on the starting side was less sure.

ESPN also polled 30 of its baseball experts – 27 predicted the Padres will prevail in the series.

Wil Myers made his own argument for the overall strength of the Padres.

“The way this lineup is constructed, with our pitching, with our bullpen, I just think, top to bottom, it’s a very complete team,” he said.

NL Wild-Card Game 1, Cardinals vs. Padres, live from Petco Park, airs on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. Wednesday. 

– Staff reports

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