Not too long ago, the Giants were very much like the Padres by design. It all began with signing Bruce Bochy to manage their team. And then it turned into modeling the major league roster after the Padres’ following their move to Petco Park: speed and defense to go with decent pitching in a pitcher-friendly park — that’s how you win! But then the Giants took those ideas even further by drafting and developing impact pitchers and hitters while augmenting what they had through the vast financial resources they had and savvy trades they could work out.
That was quite a long time ago, of course. The Padres haven’t had a winning season since 2010 and they’ve retooled or remade themselves a couple of times over the course of this decade, so the echoes of this random franchise twinning are faint at best, and yet I still see this weird connection between them. It might be why this series has absolutely no pulse to it. The Giants and Padres play each other because they have to. The matchup simply exists. The connection is that they reflect the blandest qualities of each time.
The Padres are never more Padres than when they play the Giants, and the Giants might not be more Giants than when they play the Padres. And if the Giants once chased the Padres only to become and then surpass them to win the World Series, then the Padres are surely chasing the Giants... but will they want to become and surpass them? World Series are actually good. In fact, they’re great. Euphoric. Highly recommended. The come-down from a championship run, though, looks like... well, it looks a little like the Giants 2016-2018 and the Padres 2011-2018. Of course Padres fans and the organization would happily take the Giants’ 2010-2016 as their fate over the next 7 years, but can they do what’s necessary to make it all happen?
It starts with young talent, and the Padres look to have a lot of that. Manuel Margot and Wil Myers will be on the disabled list this series, but that still leaves the likes of Carlos Asuaje, Hunter Renfroe, and Luis Perdomo...
Benches clear, punches thrown in Padres-Rockies game with Nolan Arenado and Luis Perdomo in the center of it. pic.twitter.com/6cItcDc8Td— MLB (@MLB) April 11, 2018
The Giants would’ve missed him anyway in this 4-game series, but let’s take a moment to reflect on how Luis Perdomo threw at Arenado because the day before Manuel Margot had been injured by an inside pitch (hence the DL stint) and what it means for baseball.
This sort of thing will just keep happening. As long as people get drilled by pitches, as long as human behavior can be misinterpreted because of poor communication skills, as long as pitchers need to establish dominance by throwing inside, there will be beanballs and warning pitches and the ensuing drama. It doesn’t make it right, of course.
The Giants will be facing a team coming off a bench-clearing incident in consecutive series since the first time I started tracking that bit of irrelevant trivia. If the boys on MLB Network are right, then the Padres are solidified as a team — their chemistry is at an all-time high and they’re ready to go and fight for each other pitch after pitch. That could be a problem for the Giants, who just look like they love playing baseball with Andrew McCutchen right now.
Hitter to watch:
The whole Eric Hosmer thing is probably worth pointing out. He’ll have 4 games to make his mark on this division rivalry and one minor storyline could involve revenge for the 2014 World Series... maybe. 8 years and $144 million gives him plenty of reasons to try to fire up the crowd after he singles up the middle to give the Padres the lead in the 4th inning and if the Giants do it right, that’s the most noise he’ll manage to make.
That said, it’s still the Padres, and as boring as the matchup looks on paper and feels while watching, the Padres can still be the Padres... which is the last thing the Giants need right now as they try to hold down the rotation and play up their struggling lineup.
Oh! I also want to throw in Margot’s replacement, Franchy Cordero. Left-handed power bat. He’ll for sure hit a home run at some point.
Pitcher to watch:
Joey Lucchesi — left-handed, 3 career starts... a 16:4 strikeout to walk ratio... and the Giants have never seen him before. He’s faced the Brewers once and the Rockies both home and away to begin the season. Bochy has radically altered his lineup and the way he manages games when a lefty starts, so he might not have to face Belt or Crawford in that start. Could be a big day for the rookie. Also, if you were to sample the names of high school-aged males in the East Bay area in the late 1990s, you would find Joey Lucchesi to be the most common name.
4 games will be played from Thursday to Sunday. One of those games will go on far longer than we expected. The rest we will forget entirely in less than a week.