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Complain all you like about the offensive woes of the San Diego Padres. The NL West is there for the taking.

Los Angeles and San Francisco are done, Colorado is incapable of anything other than win a few, lose a few, and Arizona simply has to cool off. They have to. The question is, how much? The other question is: How well can the Padres play to win the flag?

By the way, those offensive woes aren’t what they were previously thought to be. Brian Giles, in particular, has started to power the ball, which is a huge deal, Khalil Greene, on base percentage be damned, is on his way to a 100 RBI season, and the club has shown remarkable ability to score runs late and in bunches, which is something they haven’t done throughout. That’s how you win divisions. It doesn’t mean you have to do it every single day, but that’s how you win divisions.

While some of Kevin Towers’ moves to bolster the offense may or may not pay off long-term, they’ve helped win individual ball games short-term, and these things add up. Scott Hairston helped win a couple of games, Morgan Ensberg another, and Milton Bradley, a handful before he got hurt, as predicted here. That’s how you win divisions.

But with someone like Bradley, he’s they type of player that, if he can just muster a good chunk of September, and perhaps October healthy, he can take a club to the next level.

Just a few weeks ago, it looked as though Chris Young was going be the Padre to factor in the Cy Young Award voting, with Jake Peavy having to settle for having a fine season. Now it’s the other way around. Peavy is among the top group of NL starters, with Brandon Webb, Carlos Zambrano and perhaps one or two others, and he’s as good a shot at it any of them.

Towers has tinkered, and the team is in what is now a two-team race. He’s got to be pleased with the work he’s done. My guess is he’s almost done tinkering. Perhaps one more piece of the puzzle.

— HOWARD COLE

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