After a long wait, the day is here. Baseball returns to Petco Park in San Diego.
All the preparation to get the stadium ready for the San Diego Padres’ Opening Day is going through the finishing touches.
Groundskeepers are painting the lines and logos on the field, manicuring the grass, and raking the sand. Concession workers are melting the cheese and chilling the beer. Gatekeepers are preparing to scan tickets. The day is finally here.
The 2017 San Diego Padres have a lot of young, somewhat new faces taking the field, but they’re hosting a familiar foe — The San Francisco Giants.
Former Padres’ manager, Bruce Bochy, brings his team to San Diego, carrying most of the players that won three world championships over a five-year span: Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, and Hunter Pence.
The Padres hope to have the same success they had against San Francisco during the second half of the 2016 season. San Diego won eight of 10 games against the Giants after the all-star break, including two consecutive sweeps.
The Giants and Padres had nine meetings during the first half, with San Francisco winning all nine games. The Friars will want to avoid that this time around.
Matt Cain is coming off a less than spectacular 2016 season. He recorded a 4-8 record over 17 starts. Cain’s most hurtful stat last season was the home run, a 1.61 HR/9 stat. That could bode well for the middle of the Padres’ lineup. However, Cain did have a 7.25 K/9 last season, so facing him won’t be a walk in the park.
The man given the responsibility of keeping Bumgarner and the other Giants hitters at bay is 24-year-old Luis Perdomo. Perdomo is making his first start of the season. Last year he made 20 starts, posting a 9-10 record with a 5.41 ERA. Opponents hit .310 off Perdomo.
The Padres are hoping that those stats only amounted to growing pains, and are expecting a better season from their young hurler in 2017. In spring training, he made five starts and posted a 2.41 ERA while holding opponents to a .242 batting average.
San Francisco ace, Madison Bumgarner, is projected to get the start on the mound on Friday, ahead of fifth starter, Matt Cain. Bumgarner pitched in the Giants’ season opener at the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 2.
“Mad Bum,” as he is known around the majors, cruised through the first five innings, keeping the Diamondbacks hitless. However, he imploded in the sixth inning, allowing Arizona to tie the game 3-3. Nonetheless, he still had a solid start, striking out 11 over seven innings with 88 pitches. Talk about efficiency. Aside from his pitching performance, Bumgarner showed off with his bat. He is said to have lumberjack strength, and he showed it off by belting two home runs off Arizona ace, Zack Greinke.
Jhoulys Chacin wants to put his opening day start against the Los Angeles Dodgers completely behind him. The Dodgers teed off for nine runs, including that grand slam from Joc Pederson. Petersen’s slam took all the wind out of the sails for San Diego. Chacin wants to redeem himself with a solid outing against San Francisco.
Johnny Cueto pitched five innings against Arizona on April 4, allowing four runs on six hits. The Diamondbacks made Cueto throw 94 pitches in those five innings.
The Padres used a similar approach in their 4-0 win against Kenta Maeda on April 4. If they can do this against Cueto, they could come away with a win. Let’s not forget that Cueto allowed two home runs in his first start.
Clayton Richard pitched a masterpiece against the Dodgers on April 4. He kept the ball low in the strike zone and forced the LA hitters to hit grounders. The Padres infield was able to turn four double plays. Richard takes the mound in the series finale, looking for a similar result.
Players to watch
San Diego’s scrappy youngsters: Coming into this season, all the buzz around Padre Nation was about the young players who came up through the farm system. Fans have seen a sample size already. Now, these young players get to show off their skills in front of their home fans. Margot, Renfroe, Hedges, Schimpf, Jankowski, and Myers are sure to make home games fun.
The Giants bullpen: Last season, San Francisco had an 8-game lead in the N.L. West at the All-Star break. After the break, that lead diminished, and the Giants settled for a Wild Card spot in the postseason. The biggest reason for that collapse was the bullpen. The team has a new set of faces in the bullpen this season, including all-star closer, Mark Melancon.
Melancon blew a save in the season opener at Arizona. The season is still young, but so far, the Giants haven’t shed that reputation for having a struggling pen.
The Padres have had their fair share of struggles against San Francisco. However, they found a spark during the second half of the season. If that spark can carry over, with the youngsters using their blend of power and speed, this can be a fun weekend in downtown San Diego.
Facing Bumgarner will be a struggle. However, Cain and Cueto could be wins, especially with Richard on the mound against Cueto. Look for the Padres to win this series, losing the second game, but winning the first and third.