Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | Although the Padres ship seems to be taking on water these days, they still lead the National League West by a comfortable margin. And for most folks that is all that really matters. The rest of us look for meaningful morsels to explain how San Diego remains in first place despite recent struggles.

They have posted a winning record in just one month this season. San Diego is living off a remarkable 22-6 run in May and the fact that the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Giants are a combined 22 games below .500 (through July 21). However, the Pads must find that winning recipe and start cooking before things get too close for comfort.

Thankfully the Padres are feeling quite cozy at home these days, which is a stark contrast to last season when they barely played better than .500 baseball at Petco Park. Through 47 home games in 2005, fans are exiting with a smile more than 60 percent of the time.

A year ago, San Diegans savored a sample of pennant fever for the first time since 1998, but still hunger for a playoff plate. The menu at Petco Park is full entrées with postseason implications. Success at home will be the key to the Padres’ pursuit of their fourth NL West crown. Better make your reservations now or call in that “favor” to secure a seat for these critical series.

St. Louis Cardinals: July 26-28

New York Mets: Aug. 9-11

Philadelphia Phillies: Aug. 12-14

Houston Astros: Aug. 22-24

Arizona Diamondbacks: Aug. 29-31

Washington Nationals: Sept. 16-18

San Francisco Giants: Sept. 26-29

Los Angeles Dodgers: Sept. 30-Oct. 2

Kevin Aron is a freelance writer in San Diego and outright sports junkie. Kevin has worked in college sports information, sports agent offices and, most recently, as managing editor of DIRECTVSPORTS.com for nearly five years.

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