In recent times, the San Diego Padres have been known more for fire sales than for being a hot team.
But as the 2012 season moves into its final three weeks, the Padres (yes, the Padres!) are playing some of the best ball in the major leagues, and are scorching at their home pad, Petco Park.
That's the same Petco Park that many Padres hitters have verbally blasted and couldn't wait to leave. Petco has been such a tough place to produce offense since it opened in 2004 that players have spoken of Petco "getting in their heads" and referred to long blasts that die short of the warning track as "getting Petco'd."
But look at them now: Fresh off a three-game sweep of the Cardinals, the Pads have won 21 of their past 28 games in San Diego and have won eight of nine series there since the All-Star break. Since their horrid April and May (19-40), when most of the starting pitchers went down with injuries and the catcher was hitting .166, the Padres are 50-35.
Since Aug. 10 they're 15-8 against postseason contenders.
The Padres may not be in that position, but with the Rockies opening a three-game set Friday at Petco, they're within six games of .500 and eyeing third place in the National League West. They trail the Diamondbacks by three games.
The Padres have 18 games left -- nine at home, nine on the road. They still have home-and-away series left with the first-place Giants and single series with the D-backs and the Dodgers.
"They're all contending teams, all fighting for a playoff spot," reliever Luke Gregerson said after saving Wednesday's 3-2 victory over St. Louis. "We're showing them that we're not going to be pushed around, that we can beat them."