When the Padres were heading into Arlington, TX last year, they were coming in trying to break a five-game losing streak. With one swing of the bat, on a 3-0 pitch to Tatis Jr., and after a post-game apology, they would go on to break their losing streak. Their win would mount a seven-game winning streak over the coming days ahead.
This season’s trip to Texas will look and feel a little different. The Padres are coming into the season after making the postseason last year after a 14-year drought. There are clear expectations for them to do it again. One could argue that last year’s series against the Rangers was the turning point and the key in the ignition that started the Padres on their quest for entry into the postseason.
The Padres bats once again must come alive this road series. The paltry Rangers are 3-3 and what follows are the abysmal Pirates who are 1-6. The Padres were off to a red hot start this 21’ season, winning three straight games, their first since 1984. They ultimately dropped the last game of the series against the bottom feeder Diamondbacks. And, they couldn’t quite put it all together when facing the Giants who were able to win two out of three games in that series.
When Padres Manager Jason Tingler answered the question about how he would evaluate the first homestand of the season, he unabashedly said that it was, “just an OK homestand”. It is hard at first to put that response in context when your one game above .500 and it’s this early in the season; but, I want to discuss some three takeaways from the first homestand and what the Padres can improve on heading into their first road trip:
There is no denying that the Padres defense needs to drastically improve. Coming into their game on Friday, they are leading the league with eight fielding errors. Five of those errors are contributed to Tatis Jr. himself. One could argue that there were warning signs in Tatis’ play. These errors could have possibly been the result of lingering arm problems.
However, the required level of play to compete at the Major League level requires a consistency that the Padres just have not been able to meet. Coming out of last year’s season, they had one of the best defenses. So far, there have been some flashes of greatness, but other key errors and mental lapses of judgment have already cost Padres a loss.
In the long run, I will be curious to see how these types of losses impact their standings in the NL West, especially when compared to the formidable Dodgers.
I am not going to pretend that the Padres have been abysmal in this category. It is still early on into the season. The Padres could happily attest to scoring 19 runs in the first three games, but over the proceeding four games, that would drop to 8 runs. The biggest surprise of the season so far in the offensive category has been the production level in the run category that is Victor Caratini.
He is tied in RBIs with Eric Hosmer with seven apiece. While still early, this is encouraging to see from a guy who has typically been batting in the seven or eight spots in the lineup. With Tatis’ bat now out of the lineup, we can use all the run production we can get.
This leads me to bring up Ha-Seong Kim, the Padres off-season pick up from South Korea. Kim has taken on the unsurmountable task of taking over for Tatis at shortstop but has shown considerable improvements with his approach to at-bats in these early games of the season. Kim has hit the ball with some more power, driving two long hits, but ultimately caught balls on Wed’s game to left field.
If things all come together and he begins to catch up to the heat thrown from Major League arms, it should lead to some solid run production. With Grisham also possibly being back in the lineup this weekend, hopefully, this will also help the Padres offensive production numbers.
The pickup of Snell, Darvish, and Musgrove was unequivocally the story of the offseason; but, it has been the Padres bullpen that has saved the day. Seven of their relief pitchers have not allowed a run, and collectively their ERA stands at 1.97, which is second in all of MLB, and strikeouts the Padres place fifth. I view this as the biggest and most encouraging aspect of their first homestand. In the long term, this type of pitching will keep the Padres in contention; pitching can help when ballgames, even when their offense is not as productive.
I believe there is only an upside to heading into Texas this weekend. With this road series, I hope they put it all together and develop into a formidable foe when they come back and face the Dodgers at Petco Park next weekend.