What we learned from the Padres series against the Giants

Padres Yu Darvish

Apr 11, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Nick Martinez (22) pitches the ball against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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Padres Nick Martinez
Credit: Padres

The San Diego Padres dropped their first series of the 2022 campaign. The Friars took the first game behind an overall strong game from Nick Martinez, who made his team debut and timely hitting.

However, the next two games didn’t go quite as planned. Yu Darvish turned in the shortest outing of his career in Game 2, while the Padres struggled to find their offense really throughout the series.

In advance of the home opener on Thursday, here are a few things we learned from the series in San Francisco.

1. In the Nick of time

Maybe it was the nerves of going almost five years between MLB starts, but Nick Martinez was flirting with trouble in the early innings of Game 1. Four of the first six batters he faced put the ball in play at an exit velocity of 105.5 mph or higher. The Giants took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly, but that was all Martinez would allow. The 31-year-old danced around a ton of traffic on the basepaths, completing 5.0 innings on 83 pitches.

Padres manager Bob Melvin noted that the goal was to limit Martinez to around 80 pitches, but it was the way that the big right-hander finished his start that impressed the most. A much calmer Martinez struck out the side on just 12 pitches in the fourth inning and finished the fifth with three harmless pop flies to Padres outfielders.

Martinez led with his four-seam fastball, accounting for 15 of his 25 pitches in the first inning and 10 of his 18 pitches in the second inning. Perhaps it was the pitch he felt the most confident in settling into the big leagues.

“It was exciting to be back, for sure,” he said after Monday’s game. “I definitely had the juices flowing and the blood pumping.”

However, as the game went on, Martinez featured more of his secondary pitches, which is where he shined.

In that fourth inning, just two of his 12 pitches were four-seam fastballs:

Padres Nick Martinez
Credit: Baseball Savant

Instead, he leaned on his cutter and changeup, getting Joey Bart and Steven Duggar to fan on the former and Thairo Estrada on the ladder.

If we look back at Martinez’s pitch usage in 2017, he was heavy on the four-seam fastball (38.1%), followed by his curveball (18.8%), sinker (18.2%), cutter (13.3%), and changeup (11.7%). It’s no surprise to see the parallels observed in the first and second innings with Martinez’s fastball compared to 2017 – opposing hitters slugged .586 to go along with 13 home runs off his primary pitch.

2017 (23 games, 18 starts) 2022 (1st Start)
4-Seam Fastball 38.1% 4-Seam Fastball 48.2%
Curveball 18.8% Curveball 8.4%
Sinker 18.2% Sinker
Cutter 13.3% Cutter 21.7%
Changeup 11.7% Changeup 21.7%

Some tweaks to his pitch usage in the early goings of the season will be a good indicator of what we can expect if he keeps hitters off balance using all of his pitches. Let’s see how he approaches his next start.

2. It’s not Yu. It’s me

Following up on his six-inning no-hit effort on Opening Day, Yu Darvish had the shortest outing of his Major League career. The 35-year-old lasted just 1.2 innings pitched, allowing nine earned runs on eight hits. Darvish threw 57 pitches, but he wasn’t fooling the Giants lineup.

“Obviously, I wasn’t at my best tonight.

“It’s obviously a grind. You’re trying to get yourself together and think about the next pitch. I think I wasn’t able to execute well enough tonight,” Darvish said of his outing.

Unfortunately, Darvish’s early exit utilized several bullpen arms, with Nabil Crismatt coming in to clean up a messy inning. He allowed an RBI double to Thairo Estrada – with the run charged to Darvish – and an RBI single to Steven Duggar before striking out Joey Bart to end what was a disaster of an inning.

The Padres utilized four bullpen arms, including Austin Adams, who left with forearm tightness, and his availability going forward remains a big question mark. Eventually, the Friars turned to Wil Myers in the ninth inning to avoid using more relievers. Myers allowed two solo shots.

3. The bunt heard ‘round the world

Just five games into the season, the unwritten rules of baseball already have people talking. Mauricio Dubón’s bunt for a single with the Giants leading by nine runs was not taken kindly by the Padres.

“I definitely told him how I felt, how we felt about it,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer. “He said it was a sign given to him by their staff. I just told him I think you’ve got to be a little bit smarter in that situation. You’ve been playing professional ball for a good amount of time, obviously, if you’re at this level. You’ve got to be smarter than that.”

On the other side of the field, Giants manager Gabe Kapler was in full approval of the play.

“I fully support both of those decisions,” he said after the game. “Our goal is not exclusively to win one game in a series. It’s to try to win the entire series. Sometimes, that means trying to get a little deeper into the opposition’s ‘pen. I understand that many teams don’t love that strategy.”

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4. RISPy Business

The Padres scored just seven runs over the three-game series, thanks in large part to their ability to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). As a group, the Friars went just 4-for-28 with RISP and left a staggering 24 men on base.

While not solely responsible for their .250 batting average with RISP last season, the Padres are sorely missing the presence of Fernando Tatis Jr. in the lineup. Out until at least June, Tatis has a robust .368 average with RISP in his career.

Giving credit where due, the Giants starting staff has the potential to be top-five in the league this season. The Padres didn’t have to deal with Carlos Rodon or Anthony DeSclafani, but they got a good look at Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, and their number one starter in Logan Webb.

“We haven’t hit our stride offensively yet,” Melvin admitted. “But [Logan] Webb was really good today.”

The Padres need some of their big bats to step up in Tatis’ absence. As of Wednesday, Jurickson Profar leads the team with two home runs. As a team, the Padres have just four long balls.

As the Friars get set for the home opener on Thursday, they’ll need to find some offense to support the (mostly) great starting pitching to start the year.

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