Oracle Park- San Francisco, California
The Padres offense has been under scrutiny for most of the early part of the season for its inconsistent and often lifeless performances. A lot of the attention is a result of a passionate fanbase that occasionally loses perspective of the marathon versus sprint metaphor for an MLB season. There is, however, a legitimate reason for those following the Padres to examine realistic expectations and paths to improvement after internal and external projections labeled San Diego as offensively gifted.
“What do we need to change up in the way we’re preparing. Because we’re talking about it, but for whatever reason, we’re not executing the way we’re capable of,” said manager Jayce Tingler after the Padres loss Saturday night against the Giants. Obviously, the frustration is equally proportioned between the outside supporters of the team and the clubhouse and coaching staff.
The beauty of baseball and life is that tomorrow is always a new day. Tomorrow, in the Padres’ case, was the third and final game at Oracle Park against the San Francisco Giants, who had essentially shut down the visiting Padres for most of the series.
The Padres were sporting pink accessories on their bodies – from socks, wristbands, and batting gloves to bats, gloves, and catchers’ gear – to celebrate the women in their lives on Mother’s Day.
“I’m here because of my parents, and my mom too. She’s the complete sentence to my career. This was definitely for my mom,” said an always family-minded Fernando Tatis Jr. when asked about the pink takeover in the teams’ look.
Mother’s Day coinciding with Sunday’s series finale with the Giants served as a perfect distraction from whatever the ailing offense was doing to the team’s mentality. The team was able to use the conveniently-timed celebration of their mothers, wives, and sisters to focus on the important things in their lives that don’t question success on the field.
While obviously a generalized assumption about the effect of Mother’s Day baseball on the players’ mindsets, it’s not hard to imagine at least some sort of positivity throughout the clubhouse.
The results were significant for the Padres right away, as they jumped on Gaints’ starter Johnny Cueto in the second inning for four runs that were the result of a pair of two-run home runs that set the tone for the remainder of the game and ended in an 11-1 final that staved off a sweep.
Jake Cronenworth had the first home run that put the Padres up 2-0, a 445-foot blast that landed in Barry Bonds’ territory of McCovey Cove. Cronenworth’s homer was the longest of his career, and the first ball hit into the water since Yasmani Grandal in 2014.
Tatis Jr. would follow later in the inning with a two-run blast of his own that was far more impressive than it seemed – a product of Tatis’ effortless power as well as the buzz from Cronenworth still ringing. Nonetheless, Tatis put the Padres up 4-0 after the top of the 2nd with his 454-foot power display, and the Padres would only pile on the Giants from there.
“It was nice to be able to get quite a few barrels to the baseball. To be able to have some extra-base hits, it was nice to see. Now we do it again tomorrow and build on that,” answered manager Jayce Tingler regarding his teams’ offensive output.
“I’m here because of my parents, and my mom too. She’s the complete sentence to my career. This was definitely for my mom,” said an always family-minded Tatis when asked about the pink takeover on his jersey and gear.
The offensive outpouring was not only a big breakthrough for a team that had been struggling offensively, but a symbolic tribute to a Padre and San Diego superstar/hero/icon that would have celebrated his 61st birthday Sunday. Tony Gwynn doesn’t need any introduction to Padres’ fans and certainly doesn’t need a recap of the unmatched greatness he brought to the team, the city, and the game of baseball.
Whether on the team’s mind or not, it was another reason to play inspired baseball, especially offensively. Tony runs deeply through the hearts and souls of anything related to San Diego baseball, and it was fitting for the current team, playing on a day that allows the Padre community an opportunity to celebrate the man, to break an offensive slump with a performance that surely would have given Gwynn a reason to smile.
Not only did the offense provide a punch for the Padres in their game three win, but the pitching staff had really good performances that provided a sense of a relief for the rotation’s back end.
Chris Paddack made his first start Sunday since April 27 after being sidelined with an undisclosed injury or illness that team officials provided no information on until recently. Rumors have been circulating that Paddack had Covid testing issues, though the team has not commented. The cryptic status initially surrounding Paddack’s injury created a lot of unknowns at the back end of the rotation, especially coupled with the unpredictable paths forward for Ryan Weathers and Dinelson Lamet.
Paddack and Weathers pitched back to back for three innings apiece on Sunday, failing to allow a run and giving the Padres a reason for optimism after stretches of uncertainty.
The bullpen followed the two starters for San Diego by surrending a single run in the 8th when the lead for San Diego was a comfortable nine runs.
After a much-needed win for the Padres over the first-place Giants to avoid a sweep, the team will travel Sunday night to Colorado for a three-game set the Rockies. At 19-16 with a second-place standing, the Padres are still searching for a stretch of games that resembles the team they are capable of being.
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No one knows when that stretch might come or what it might look like, but Sunday’s performance was a celebration of the women in their lives, a franchise legend, and a breakthrough of lackluster offense that was long overdue.
Heading to play the Rockies in Colorado provides an excellent opportunity for the team to build on Sunday and finally produce like they are capable of producing.
Kevin is a San Diego Native covering the San Diego Padres and their affiliates