The Padres are just 3-3 since starting the season 3-1 against the Giants in San Diego, and darn it, you can’t really say they’re overperforming. Yeah, Arizona followed the Giants into Petco and took two out of three, but then the Padres took two out of three against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
They’ve hit 10 home runs in the six games since the opening series and their offense is right there in the middle of the pack, MLB-wise, and eighth in the NL, ahead of the Nationals, Cardinals, Rockies, and Reds — all teams that were figured to be better than them in the preseason prognostications.
Look. Obviously — obviously — we’re dealing with a 10-game sample size here. Virtually meaningless in the grand scheme. What has happened, though, is that a theory that was put forth after the Padres signed Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million deal this offseason — The Padres might not be that bad — looks to have some validity in the very early going. You don’t need to squint too hard to see how they might succeed, and even an improvement into the 75-80 win range would be a vast improvement over where they were just a year ago.
Meanwhile, the Giants get to serve as yet another affirmation of just how far they’ve come. The Giants were the first wounded animal to be thrown in the pen to see how the Padres would react — they mauled the Giants, but not quite as viciously as the 90+ percentile projections might’ve deemed. The Giants have a little fight in them — their pitching can hold the line just enough to keep the over the hill offense in a game and if that offense flashes any signs of life, they’ll have a shot.
The Padres aren’t quite at the level of the Dodgers or the Rays yet. They’re not rattling teams so hard that the players’ ancestors feel the damage, but they’re getting there, and after their offense took off following the Giants’ departure, they now get a quick rematch. This is usually the point in time where a rebuilding team has a little bit of a wake up call — a veteran team reminds them that they still have some growing left to do.
I don’t see these 2019 Giants as veteran teachers. They look more like survivors of an apocalypse, and they’re just trying to barter canned goods for safe passage to a mysterious city by the sea that promises to deliver them to their final resting place away from the nightmarish hellscape that the world has become.
Hitter to watch
Manny Machado will be the hitter to watch for the Padres all season long, so every time I do one of these series previews, I’ll select a 1A. In the first series, that was Franmil Reyes. He has struggled in the early going with just two hits in 28 plate appearances (along with 4 walks and 4 strikeouts), though, so I’m not going with him. This week, watch out for Hunter Renfroe.
After going 1-for-7 with two strikeouts against the Giants (he played in three of the four games), he has gone 7-for-15 in his last 18 plate appearances, including 3 home runs and three doubles.
This will be Renfroe’s third full season, and after hitting a combined 52 over the past two seasons, he’s got some high expectations attached to him. The Padres are in a fun position: their corner outfield situation is a bit crowded between Renfroe, Wil Myers, Franmil Reyes, and Franchy Cordero, and given the team’s financial commitment to Myers, it looks as though the battle is really just for left field and between the three remaining guys.
Of course, Andy Green could just continue to mix and match, but if he’s instead opting to go with the hot hand, then that’s Renfroe right now.
Pitcher to watch
Tuesday night’s starter Joey Lucchesi handled the Giants with ease in the second game of the season, to the point that he and the rest of the Padres nearly shutout the team through their first two games, something that had never happened in franchise history. It took a late home run by Evan Longoria to prevent that history from being written and a ninth inning rally that ended on some borderline called strike threes to show the Giants still had some fight in them — as a franchise — but that night all started with Lucchesi’s dominance.
He’s had one other start since then, just five innings against the Diamondbacks, but as was the case with the Giants, Arizona couldn’t touch him. He struck out six, walked one, and allowed four hits in those five innings and has a 0.00 ERA in his first 10.1 innings of the season. The only flaw to note is that five of the seven total hits he’s allowed have been doubles. Otherwise, he’s been solidly above average.
The biggest difference for the Giants in facing Lucchesi this time around is that they won’t have Michael Reed out there for him to embarrass. Reed twice struck out swinging and sandwiched in between was a strikeout looking. Three days later, Reed was designated for assignment.
I don’t know how, but the Giants will figure out a way to win two out of three. I guess it starts with Madison Bumgarner, Derek Holland, and Dereck Rodriguez all starting, and as good as they are, the Padres aren’t the Rays... yet.
And, finally, about Manny Machado’s hair... I still don’t get it, but I recognize that I need to have an open mind about this.
Maybe he’s a fan of the cartoon superhero Freakazoid?
I could see that. He definitely needs to grow it out longer to really pull it off, but the shaved sides really help complete the look. You know what, if Manny Machado wants to be Freakazoid! then who am I to criticize him? Fine. Manny Machado’s hair is actually good, too. Dammit.