Series Preview – Padres vs. Giants (March 28-31)

Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Following a thrilling series in Korea, the San Diego Padres return to the friendly confines of Petco Park to face the division-rival San Francisco Giants, with a few familiar faces now in the opposite dugout.

After a 1-1 trip to Korea, the Padres are back in San Diego for their home opening series against the Giants. For the Giants, this will be their opening series, with these teams meeting seven times in their first 10 games. With both teams having undergone significant roster turnover this offseason, they both appear poised to compete for Wild Card spots this season.

The Giants have had an interesting offseason, to say the least. They fired manager Gabe Kapler following two subpar seasons following their miracle 107-win 2021 season. Replacing Kapler is a familiar face for Padres fans: former Padres bench boss Bob Melvin. While the team underwent a lot of turnover in their pitching staff, they were able to add high-upside arms in former Cy Young winners Robbie Ray and Blake Snell, along with fireballer Jordan Hicks. Their offense also received a much-needed upgrade over the platoon-heavy roster from years prior, adding slugger Jorge Soler, third baseman Matt Chapman, and KBO star outfielder Jung Hoo Lee.

The Padres, fresh off their first win of the young season, prepare to welcome a raucous Friar Faithful crowd with a rejuvenated roster. Coming off a disappointing 2023 season, the team has fortified its depth in the pitching staff through both the Juan Soto trade and high-upside additions in the bullpen like Yuki Matsui, Jeremiah Estrada, Rule 5 pick Stephen Kolek, and Woo-Suk Go. The Padres also added to their rotation with Michael King & Dylan Cease, two potentially ace-caliber starters. In the competitive gauntlet known as the National League West, both of these teams looked primed to make a run, and series like this one could make all the difference.

Pitching Matchups
Looking into what the starting pitching matchups may be for this series, here is what has been stated as of the publication of this article:
– Giants manager Bob Melvin announced that Logan Webb, Kyle Harrison, and Jordan Hicks would be starting the first three games for the Giants on KNBR 680.
– Before Monday’s exhibition game against the Mariners, Padres manager Mike Shildt announced that right-handers Dylan Cease & Michael King would start the third and fourth games of the season.
Therefore, the matchups for the series look as follows:
Game One: Logan Webb vs. Yu Darvish
Game Two: Kyle Harrison vs. Joe Musgrove
Game Three: Jordan Hicks vs. Dylan Cease
Game Four: TBD vs. Michael King

Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

Giants Hitters
As stated in the open, the Giants made a plethora of signings to bring more power to their offense, which ranked 18th in Major League Baseball per Fangraphs. With the Padres throwing four right-handed starting pitchers this series, the Giants’ lineup will shape up something like this:

Jung Hoo Lee – Center Field
Thairo Estrada – Second Base
LaMonte Wade Jr.– First Base
Jorge Soler – Designated Hitter
Michael Conforto – Left Field
Matt Chapman – Third Base
Mike Yastrzemski – Right Field
Patrick Bailey – Catcher
Nick Ahmed – Shortstop

There will likely be a lot less platooning in this Giants lineup than there has been in years past, as Chapman, Soler, and Lee were added to be constants in the lineup. However, it would not be surprising to see Wilmer Flores or Marco Luciano make their way into the lineup for at least one of the games to give someone like Wade or Ahmed a day off.

Giants Pitchers
As of this article’s completion, only the first three starters have been named for the series on the Giants’ end of things. Logan Webb, who will be the Giants’ Opening Day starter for the third consecutive season, made only one start against San Diego in 2023, holding the team to one run in a nine-inning complete game. As for the other two announced starters, Kyle Harrison made one start against the Padres last season, a game in which he surrendered six runs (on four home runs) over 5 ⅔ innings at Petco Park. Jordan Hicks has never started a game against the Padres, but in over four career relief appearances, he has posted 4 ⅔ scoreless innings against the Friars.

As for the Giants bullpen, they will be rolling with very similar personnel to last season, with Camilo Doval closing games and other late-inning options like the Rogers twins Tyler & Taylor, as well as other arms such as Luke Jackson & Ryan Walker. While the Giants have added to the upper end of their pitching staff, they have had a number of injuries befall their relief depth. Rotation candidate Tristan Beck has been placed on the 60-day injured list with an aneurysm in his pitching arm. Left-hander Ethan Small will miss time with an oblique strain. Long reliever Sean Hjelle is also out long-term with a right elbow sprain.

While the Giants made plenty of additions to their staff, the depth on the mound may be tested sooner rather than later.

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Keys to the Series

For the visiting Giants: 
Get to the starters early: While the Padres starters did not fare ideally in Korea, all four have the potential to lock in and make the opposing offense scuffle at the plate. If the Giants want to put up runs, they’ll need to capitalize on walks or base runners to get to the Padres starters.

Power: The Giants overhauled their offense to increase their power production by adding players like Jorge Soler & Matt Chapman. The power from this lineup will have to show up in this series for them to have a chance to win, given the four Padres starters are relatively flyball pitchers.

For the Padres:
Keep the Line Moving: The Padres finished their 15-11 victory over the Dodgers by going 10-for-24 with runners in scoring position. For the Padres to continue to win, they will need to keep finding ways to bring in those runners. Will they be 10-for-24 with runners in scoring position every game? No. However, they cannot afford to end games 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Shutdown Bullpen: The Padres’ bullpen was a key piece of their complicated 2023 season was their bullpen depth, or lack thereof. With reinforcements in the bullpen this season, and a closer willing to go more than three outs, the Padres’ bullpen looks to be a strength of the team now. It will need to play like a strength, and considering the performances in Korea by Robert Suarez, Yuki Matsui, and Enyel De Los Santos, this relief core looks like it could hold opponents at bay in the late innings.

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