Abrams’ first HR, other takeaways from Padres series vs Braves

Padres MacKenzie Gore

Credit: MLB.com

Padres CJ Abrams
Credit: USA Today Sports

The San Diego Padres split their four-game series with the defending World Series Champion, Atlanta Braves. The Friars exploded for 12 runs in the opener but struggled to score runs over the next three. Still, timely hitting and (mostly) solid starting pitching were the storylines in this one.

Here are several takeaways from the four-game set.

1. A Cup of Joe

For his 2021 season, Joe Musgrove was rewarded with starting the home opener, and he rewarded the Friar Faithful with a dominating performance. The 29-year-old tossed 6.2 innings, allowing just four hits and striking out six.

“Tonight couldn’t have been a better night, the way it went down,” Musgrove said.

The El Cajon, CA native continued his dominance at the Padres’ home ballpark. In 19 career starts at Petco Park, Musgrove has a 2.64 ERA and 10.6 K/9.

He utilized all six of his pitches for a well-balanced attack against the Braves lineup, getting three swing-and-misses on his four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup.

Padres Joe Musgrove
Credit: Baseball Savant

2. C(J) you later

With Fernando Tatis Jr. sidelined until at least June, Padres rookie phenom CJ Abrams was given an opportunity to prove himself at the big league level. He and Ha-Seong Kim have platooned the shortstop position in the early goings of the season.

The 21-year-old Abrams had just one hit in 14 at-bats prior to Thursday’s home opener.

In his first plate appearance at Petco Park, Abrams turned on a 94 mph fastball, launching an opposite-field laser into the left field seats.

Abrams, who admitted to some nerves in his first few games, says he’s feeling more comfortable.

“It’s slowed down a little bit,” said Abrams. “The first few games, the heart was kind of going. It’s kind of calmed down. I’m just doing my thing now.”

3. The MacLife

Since being taken third overall in the 2017 MLB draft, fans have long waited for MacKenzie Gore’s big league debut. That moment came on Friday, thanks to injuries within the starting rotation.

The 23-year-old lefty struck out the first batter he faced and struck out three in total. Across 5.1 innings, Gore allowed two earned runs while throwing 44 of his 73 pitches for strikes.

“You can’t really draw it up any better other than we win,” Gore said. “It was a tough loss. But walking off the field with an ovation like that from the home crowd, it was awesome. … This place is awesome. Just a lot of fun.”

Fifty-three of his 73 total pitches – or 73 percent – were four-seam fastballs. Gore’s fastball is one of the best in the 2017 draft class, and it’s understandable for someone making their big league debut to rely on their primary pitch. He’ll need to mix in more pitches in his next start, or hitters will be sitting on his fastball.

Padres MacKenzie Gore
Credit: Baseball Savant

4. Lacking offense

After an offensive outburst in Game 1 of the series, the Padres scored just two runs in each of the next three games. On Saturday, Bob Melvin’s club didn’t even get a runner in scoring position.

Trent Grisham and Jurickson Profar’s solo shots, along with Austin Nola and Eric Hosmer’s two-out singles, rounded out San Diego’s four hits on Saturday.

“We had a few balls hit hard, but we couldn’t string anything together,” Melvin said. “You start to press a little bit, when you do hit a ball hard and you go through six or seven at-bats and you don’t get much. We just couldn’t string anything to put some pressure on where one swing of the bat could get us gets back in the game.”

5. Lost in the Voit

With the DH in play for the National League, the Padres acquired Luke Voit from the Yankees to fill the role while also serving as a capable backup to Hosmer at first base.

Voit has struggled out of the gate, hitting just .176 on the season and seven strikeouts in the weekend series. While he’s taking walks at a 20.5 percent clip, the 31-year-old’s strikeout rate is just under 30 percent.

“I’ve got to stop chasing,” he said. “I’m chasing a lot. I feel like it’s almost 0-2 every time I’ve been up there the last couple games. I’m trying to hit the ball out of the stadium, instead of just squaring the ball up, have good, productive at-bats, wearing out the pitcher. That’s what I was doing the first five or six games.”

According to Fangraphs, Voit’s 56.6 percent contact rate in 2022 is a career-low. He was given the day off on Sunday as a mental reset.

Credit: Baseball Savant

As noted, he’s been terrific in the walks department but not-so-great in pretty much every other department.

6. Bounce back, milestone outing by Darvish

The best way to forget the shortest outing of your career is to come out and shove in the next start.

“I tend to think he’s a lot more like the first outing,” Bob Melvin said prior to Sunday’s finale.

On Sunday, the Padres turned to Yu Darvish, who was masterful over 6.2 innings. The 35-year-old threw 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes while fanning eight. He also achieved a significant milestone.

His only blemish was a solo shot off the bat of Marcell Ozuna, which was just one of four hits allowed by Darvish on the day.

UP NEXT: The Padres turn right around and host the Cincinnati Reds for a three-game set starting on Monday.

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