Goldschmidt, Cardinals win 7-4 in Padres' return to playoffs

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St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley works against a San Diego Padres batter during the fifth inning of Game 1 of a National League wild-card baseball series Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN DIEGO – Given a chance to catch their breath after a crazy month and a half, the St. Louis Cardinals settled into the playoffs with yet another win against the San Diego Padres.

Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run during a four-run first inning, St. Louis' bullpen held strong after starter Kwang Hyun Kim stumbled in his playoff debut and the Cardinals ruined the Padres’ long-awaited return to the playoffs with a 7-4 victory Wednesday in the opener of their NL wild-card series.

The Cardinals got a welcome two days off before this series began. They came after a season-closing grind that saw them play 53 games in 44 days, including 11 doubleheaders, with only two days off. The team had its season suspended for 14 games from late July to mid-August after 10 players and eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19 and had to scramble to fit in the makeups.

“It was nice. We needed them," Goldschmidt said. “The whole last whatever, 45 days, we were playing every day, guys were playing as hard as they could but can’t operate at 100% for that long. It was nice to kind of recharge and be 100% or close to it and just be ready to go.”

The Cardinals need one more win to eliminate the Padres from the postseason for the fourth time since 1996. They swept the Padres in the NL Division Series in 1996 and 2005, and won 3-1 in 2006, which was the last time San Diego made the postseason. Game 2 is Thursday.

Right-hander Chris Paddack (0-1) failed to give the Padres the boost they desperately needed after Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet were left off the wild-card roster due to injuries suffered in their final regular-season starts.

Paddack lasted only 2 1/3 innings and gave up six runs.

After retiring leadoff batter Kolten Wong, Paddack allowed the next five batters to reach. San Diego native Tommy Edman singled and Goldschmidt homered to left. Dylan Carlson doubled, 38-year-old Yadier Molina hit an RBI single and Paul DeJong doubled before Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly.