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Beware: the Padres are better than the Marlins

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Just because Cory Spangenberg had to pitch in relief this afternoon doesn’t mean he can’t go 4-for-4 with 4 home runs tomorrow.

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, third baseman Cory Spangenberg came into 9th inning of a 10-1 blowout and pitched for the Padres against the visiting A’s. That appearance did not go as well as Pablo Sandoval’s relief inning did for the Giants back in April. It went how most position player pitches the inning innings are supposed to go as Spangenberg walked the first two batters, before eventually surrendering a single and a double to allow both walks to score.

The 12-4 final score secured the Padres’ fifth loss in six games, which means they’ll be rolling into AT&T Park with a bigger chip on their shoulder than usual. But the Giants need these games if they’re going to make the next 20 of 26 at home count. StubHub has really cheap tickets for all four games of this must-win series. There will be a bunch of cool stuff happening around each game, too, like LGBT Night (tomorrow), Beatles Appreciation Night, and a reunion of the 2002 World Series team.

It’s highly unlikely the Giants will get to face Cory Spangenberg as a reliever, which regardless of outcome would be preferable to facing him as a batter, as his career triple slash against the Giants is a robust .322 / .385 / .458 (.842 OPS) with 3 home runs in 130 plate appearances; 78 of those have been at AT&T Park, where his OPS .822 OPS.

But it’s not all about Cory Spangenberg. It’s also about Eric Hosmer, Christian Villanueva, Jose Pirela, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, and Hunter Renfroe, all designated Giants destroyers. The seven games of this matchup has felt like it has been all Padres, but it’s only 4-3 in their favor. Still, if the Giants want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to be better than the Padres, which won’t be easy.

The Padres against the NL West:

AZ 1-2 / 2.67 runs per game
LAD 3-6 / 3.22 runs per game
COL 5-7 | 4.5 runs per game
SF 4-3 | 4.57 runs per game

They have only 3 fewer wins than the Giants and are setup to be a competitive team right now. It’s possible we might’ve seen the last of the perpetually rebuilding San Diego Padres, replaced by a lot of high floor, high ceiling young talent and an annoying pitching staff that manages to get outs no matter who’s on the mound.

Kirby Yates was a struggling relief pitcher exiting his prime years, but now in his second season with the Padres, at age 31, he’s turned into a dominant arm with an 0.93 ERA and 34:9 K:BB ratio in 29 innings. He also joins the ranks of Most Padres Name Ever. Their entire bullpen sounds like a list of winners from a boat club’s annual sailing tournament: Brad Hand, Jordan Lyles, Adam Cimber, Craig Stammen, and Kirby Yates.

Will the steady, veteran hand of the Giants be able to hold back their youthful talent?

Hitter to watch: Third baseman Christian Villanueva has an .802 OPS with 16 home runs while batting .228 in 222 plate appearances. His strikeout rate is 29.7% and walk rate 6.75%. His splits against the Giants are quite different, however: 1.120 OPS with 3 home runs, a .280 average, and a .400 OBP in 30 plate appearances. He’s walked 4 times in those PAs (13.3%) and struck out only 6 times (20%). Madison Bumgarner and Andrew Suarez are homer-prone left-handed pitchers who are a nice matchup for his skillset. Beware the Christian.

Pitcher to watch: Saturday night’s starter Clayton Richard pitched 6.2 innings of no-hit ball against the Marlins (/Sideshow Bob grumble) back on June 10th and, by gum, he’ll be facing a Giants’ lineup that won’t have Evan Longoria in it or, possibly, Alen Hanson available, meaning his chances of having a similar outing to that Marlins start increases. The Giants have pounded him pretty good throughout his career (4.58 ERA in 112 career innings), but a sinkerball against an ailing lineup might mean he gets the best of them this go around.

Prediction: The Giants are in desperate need of a 4-game sweep, but they’re banged up and short-handed against a young and hungry team that has their number, so, the best the Giants can do is a split.