Series Preview: Padres face the Arizona Diamondbacks
In the first series of this pandemic-challenged season, the Padres faced the Arizona Diamondbacks and took three of four games. In the D-Backs lone victory, Arizona came from behind against closer Kirby Yates who gave up two runs on two hits in the ninth inning.
On Wednesday, Major League Baseball issued a new edict thanks to COVID-19 outbreaks among players for the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, which led to the cancellation of 21 games early in the season. All players and staff must wear facial coverings except those on the field. Scofflaws could face a ban for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
After completing a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Padres returned home to face another division rival, the Diamondbacks. In the first game against the Dodgers, Chris Paddack settled down following a Joc Pederson home run off his first pitch to hold the Dodgers to three runs over six innings. Home runs from Fernando Tatis Jr., Wil Myers, and Trent Grisham led the scoring in 5-4 victory.
Game two saw Dinelson Lamet had his way with Dodgers allowing no hits through 5 2/3 innings. Then after he plunked Justin Turner, the ghost of 2019 reared his ugly head. Sloppy play and bullpen blues led to a 5-2 loss.
Although the Padres rallied late in Wednesday’s game, the team fell one run short. In his debut, touted prospect Luis Patino replaced starter Garrett Richards in the sixth inning and retired Cody Bellinger on a fly to center. But singles by Corey Seager and Chris Taylor set up a three-run home run for Pederson. Also noteworthy, rookie manager Jayce Tingler earned his first ejection after objecting to umpire Mark Ripperger’s strike zone in the seventh inning.
Going into the series with the D-Backs, the Padres sit in third place in the division, trailing the Colorado Rockies (9-3) and the Dodgers (9-4) with a record of 7-6.
Since facing the Padres, the Diamondbacks have split a series with the Texas Rangers, lost three of four to the Dodgers, and taken two of three from the ahem 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros.
Game 1 (Friday, August 7, 6:10 pm): Zach Davies 1-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.000 WHIP vs. Luke Weaver 0-2, 14.73 ERA, 2.59 WHIP
Davies didn’t pitch in the first series against the Diamondbacks, so this will be their first look at him in a Padres uniform. In five years with the Milwaukee Brewers, the right-hander compiled a record of 44-33, a 3.92 ERA and a 1.290 WHIP.
In his two starts, Weaver has pitched relatively well in the early innings but has struggled once he reaches the fourth. The 26-year-old right-hander has given up three home runs and 12 earned runs in just 7.1 innings of work.
Game 2 (Saturday, August 8, 6:10 pm): Possible Starter Chris Paddack (2-0, 2.65 ERA) vs. Merrill Kelly (1-1, 2.63 ERA)
In his second season, Paddack has picked up where he left off in his rookie season. Although he’s pitched only 17 innings so far, the training wheels should come off as the season progresses. In his last game, a win against the Dodgers, he gave up five hits and three runs in six innings
Kelly took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers. He has not faced the Padres so far this season, but last year Eric Hosmer and Tatis Jr had the most success against him.
Game 3 (Sunday, August 9, 1:10 pm): Possible starter Dinelson Lamet (1-0, 1.72 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 7.04 ERA)
In his last start, detailed above, Lamet sailed through the first five-plus innings before a hit batter derailed him. In his short tenure in the starting rotation, he’s tended to pitch well early in ball games, start to give way in the fourth and fifth frames, but falter by the sixth.
At 31, MadBum does not resemble the dominant top of the rotation starter of the early days. In his last outing, he gave up two walks, seven hits, hit two batters and allowed eight runs in just 4.1 innings. Hosmer, Machado, and Tatis Jr. have hit Bumgarner, exceptionally well this year.
Players to Watch
Fernando Tatis Jr.
Since arriving last year, Tatis Jr. has been the must-watch player for San Diego. He plays an energetic, exciting game on both sides of the ball. So far this year, he has tightened up his defense after committing18 errors last year, but he still tests the limits on the base paths. In 51 at-bats he’s hit an other-worldly .294/.400/.647/1.047, OPS+ 196 including two doubles, one triple, four home runs.
Cronenworth arrived with Tommy Pham in the trade that sent outfielder Hunter Renfroe, prospect Xavier Edwards, and infielder Esteban Quiroz to the Tampa Bay Rays. An infielder and occasional pitcher, Cronenworth has played solid ball at first in Hosmer’s absence and batted .318/.348/.727/1.075 OPS+ 202. With Hosmer due to return Saturday (gastritis), Cronenworth could replace Profar at second. In 11 games, Jurickson Profar has hit .081/.244/.162/.407.
After a sub-par 2019 season, Machado is off to a slow start at the plate. In 50 ABs, he’s batted .200/.322/.349/.662 OPS+ 93. The Padres need the $300-million-dollar-man to pick up the pace. His underperformance in 2019 could certainly be attributed to the new city, new team, and new league.
By most aggressive measures, he has not yet lived up to his billing or to that contract. In seven seasons with Baltimore Orioles, he compiled a record of .283/.335/.487/.822 OPS+ 121
In a small sample, Marte has hit well against Paddack with a batting line of .667/667/.833/1.500. Overall this year, he’s averaging .346 with 18 hits, including one home run.
The other Marte, who plays center field, has only 16 at-bats total this year against the Padres. In August, he’s heated up despite playing against both LA and Houston. In 16 ABs against the Padres, he’s batted .375/.412/.500/.912, but two of those hits came against Lucchesi.
According to Power Rankings by Alyson Footer of MLB.com (8-3-20), the Padres jumped from 16th to eighth place after a “rebuild that went on for years.” The Yankees lead the Power Rankings with the Dodgers at second, Rockies 16th, Diamondbacks 21st, Giants 24th. With every game weighted, the Padres need to tighten up the defense and the relief pitching, in particular, to live up to that ranking.
Baseball has been a part of Diane’s life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.
Your observations are spot-on as usual. Davies did look great last night as did Tatis Jr. of course. Cronenworth is so much fun to watch. Plus, I love his story. This is his first stint in the majors, and he certainly looks like he belongs. Hosmer never would have made some of the fantastic plays that Cronenberg does routinely. It will be very interesting to see what happens when Hosmer comes back.
I’ve almost given up writing about the catcher situation. I don’t give a rip if Hedges never gets another hit. He should catch the majority of games. I’m sure the pitchers would agree. Paddack’s ERA with Hedges is about two points lower than with Mejia. You are so right about Mejia. His BA is lower than Hedges although that hardly seems possible. But Mejia is Preller’s guy.
I’m really getting worried about Machado. The Padres can’t afford another big contract that doesn’t pay off.
Take care and stay safe,
A nice article Diane. We won game 1 and Davies looked great! Cronenworth has certainly been a surprise. I hope he’s capable of making the adjustments as pitchers will certainly be doing with him soon. The Profar trade made zero sense to me then and it certainly looks to be a Huge mistake at this point.
You did not mention the glaring weakness, our catching situation. They have been a disaster at the plate. I did not like Mejia last year and he’s given me more not to like this year. I think the pitching staff prefers Hedges BY FAR! He went in to catch Yates last night. No coincidence that Yates wasn’t shaking off Hedges and was far more confident and effective. Hedges seems to be looking for perfect pitches to hit and afraid to swing otherwise. While Mejia would swing even if the pitcher pretended to throw a ball to the plate. Mejia is undisciplined behind the plate and in the box. We need a third option to be starting to see if we can get something from that spot in the lineup. Until such time, let Hedges defense and handling of the staff be the priority at catcher.
Lastly, Manny seems to be taking way too many good pitches (often first pitches) which puts him on the defense in the box. Pitchers aren’t fearing him. He needs to be more aggressive and taking less first pitches strikes.