Cease shines, but bats remain quiet for Padres

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

After returning to the United States for two series, in which they went a disappointing 3-4 in front of sold-out crowds at Petco Park, the San Diego Padres traveled north to face the Giants in San Francisco’s 2024 home opener.

Despite the nail-biting 3-2 victory on Wednesday to avoid a three-game sweep from the St. Louis Cardinals, the Padres offense raised several concerns. In the series, the Friars went 2-for-19 (.105) with RISP, flashing back to the disappointing 2023 season.

After a respectable first outing in which he went four and ⅔ innings and gave up two earned runs, Dylan Cease made his second appearance of the season and turned in a quality start, going six innings, striking out seven, and allowing just two earned runs.

“Dylan was really good,” Mike Shildt said in a post-game interview. “He did a great job to get us through six. Left it in a tie ball game. Gave us more than a chance.

Unfortunately, despite early promise with a first-inning run, the offensive did not have the Cease and the rest of the pitching staff’s back, as the team went just 6-for-32 (.188) at the plate on the afternoon.

Facing flamethrower Jordan Hicks for the second time in the young season, the Padres’ at-bats were much more productive in the first inning than in the entire Cardinals series.

Xander Bogaerts, whose 10 hits on the season leading up to the contest were all singles, grabbed his first extra-base hit and hooked a double to left before Fernando Tatis Jr. moved him to third on a selfless 4-3 groundout.

Jake Cronenworth’s single on an elevated 83-MPH splitter put the Friars on the board first. However, the lead was short-lived.

Pitch command has always been an issue for Cease. In 2022, the season in which he finished second in American League Cy Young voting with a 2.20 ERA, Cease led all of baseball with 78 walks.

To begin his outing, Cease walked lead-off hitter Jung Hoo Lee. The base on balls turned into a run and tied the score when the red-hot Michael Conforto smoked a 103-MPH double to right.

The Padres regained the lead 2-1 in the third inning on another excellent at-bat from Tatis; on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Tatis scorched a 103-mph missile by Matt Chapman’s dive through the 5.5 hole to score Jackson Merrill.

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In 2021, Cease led the American League with 13 wild pitches and led MLB with 14 last season. The right-hander worked out of a massive jam in the fourth; with Conforto on second and Chapman on first, Cease spiked a slider that moved both runners up a base.

After Graham Pauley tagged Conforto out between third and home on his attempt to advance two bases on the wild pitch, Cease retired back-to-back Giants, capping the inning with his fifth strikeout.

With the score tied at 2-2, Ha-Seong Kim and Jurickson Profar struck out in back-to-back RISP opportunities to end the ninth inning on a 97-MPH cutter and 88-MPH slider from Camilo Doval.

San Francisco walked it off 3-2 on Thairo Estrada’s first double of 2024.

The Padres are just 2-for-18 (.111) with RISP in the last two games combined. Even though San Diego salvaged the final game against the Red Birds, the win was not convincing, and the struggles carried over into Friday’s loss in San Francisco.

The Friars look to execute offensively following two strong games from the pitching staff.

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