Padres Opening Series Review

San Diego Padres outfielder Seth Smith had a solid opening series against the Dodgers, going 3 for 7 with two home runs in the three-game series.

Padres Week 1

Sunday vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (3-1 Win)

Seth Smith tied the game with a pinch hit solo homer off of Brian Wilson in the eighth inning. Positive sign given the Padres injury plagued outfield (Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin). Smith is only a.265 career hitter, so don’t get too excited, but the fact that his batting average is 69 points higher against righties than lefties since the beginning of the 2011 season should provide Padre nation with confidence that he can succeed as a situation player like he did in the season opener.

Andrew Cashner is the real deal. Trade for him on your fantasy team, send your daughter to meet him, and begin growing your beard to catch up to the facial garden that the 27-year old righty currently sports. His fastball consistently reached 95-plus on the gun, more than enough to set up his strong off speed repertoire. Dating back to last season, Cashner has now rattled off eight straight quality starts, with more strikeouts than hits allowed in six of those outings. The bullpen did its job after Cashner departed (3 innings, no hits, one walk, and four strikeouts with 70.3% of their pitches going for strikes), allowing the Padres to keep the game close.

The offense wasn’t great (just three hits in seven innings against Hyun-Jin Ryu) and that is going to be X-factor if this Padres team is going to win 80-plus games. But this formula (timely hitting to go along with good pitching and solid defense) is how San Diego is going to succeed.

Tuesday vs. Dodgers (2-3 Loss)

Another day, another home run off of a RHP for Seth Smith, Padres only hit through the first four innings against Zach Greinke. He’s not going to hit 30 homers, but his increased level of production against righties is no fluke.

Ian Kennedy gave up a leadoff single to Carl Crawford and a home run by Yasiel Puig before recording an out, but he gave up only four base runners and one run over the next four innings. Is this the ideal start? No, but his ability to limit the damage on a night where he didn’t have his A-plus pitches is important. The bullpen once again shut down the Dodgers potent attack, holding them to two harmless singles in four innings of work. They were once again very aggressive (it took them only 25 pitches to record the final eight outs), an important trend that will allow San Diego’s relievers to pitch on consecutive days should it continue.

Much like game one of this series, but Padres tried to come back against the relief pitchers of Los Angeles, but this time, the rally came up just short. Yonder Alonso led off the ninth inning with a single against one of the elite closers in the game in Kenley Jansen, putting the tying run on base. A line drive single one batter later by Will Venable put Alonso on third base with one out, but Chris Denorifa simply couldn’t make solid contact on Jansen’s heat and struck out on three pitches. After a walk to Yasmani Grandal, pinch hitter Nick Hundley entered the game with the winning run in scoring position. He was dominated on four pitches, but the Padres resolve is something that has been consistent during the first two games of the season. San Diego isn’t going to win many 8-7 games, so the solid pitching and timely hitting is crucial. If the Padres can get their top starters (Cashner and Kennedy) some run support, this bullpen seems to have the matchup ability to be effective for the long-term.

Wednesday vs. Dodgers (1-5 Loss)

The Padres fell behind 3-0 four batters into the game, the type of start to a game that a team with an average at best offense simply cannot afford to have. Sure, San Diego only gave up only one run and three hits up until a bumpy eighth inning, but the early deficit is something this team can’t afford to do.

The bullpen was once again very effective (four innings, four base runners, four strikeouts, and one earned run) in stopping the initial bleeding, but the offense couldn’t capitalize on the few chances they did get against Dan Haren and the Dodgers pitching staff (1/9 with runners in scoring position, with seven different players failing to cash in). For the series, the Padres struck out 27 times while drawing only eight free passes, a big time concern moving forward as driving in runs is going to be a struggle. That statistic is overblown if the bottom of the order is inflating the numbers, but that’s not the case as Chase Headley and Jedd Gyorko have totaled just one hit through three games while averaging five K’s per walk.

Back to the bullpen: if their early season success is not a fluke, this is a real weapon. The Dodgers boast an elite offense, yet the Padres backend surrendered just six hits and one earned run in 11 innings of action (three of those hits and the lone run came before Donn Roach could get a single out). That means that if you subtract the last third of the eighth inning, the Padres ‘pen gave up three hits in 10.2 shutout innings against a team that is among the favorites to win the National League. Neither the starting pitching nor the hitting is elite for San Diego, but if they can continue to shorten games, they have a real chance at finishing this season with more than the 76 wins they’ve recorded in back-to-back campaigns.

Weekly Grade: B-

They dropped two of three games to the divisional rival, but they showed fight and were competitive for the most part. The offense needs to warm with the weather, but I’m not panicking over their sluggish start as the Dodgers have an elite pitching staff. Everth Cabrera and Seth Smith have six hits in 17 at-bats at the top of the order, a success rate that will certainly lead to greater run production sooner rather than later (the 3-4-5 hitters aren’t going to struggle to this extent all season). The grit shown by the pitching staff is encouraging, making this opening series loss a step in the right direction. We won’t have to wait long to see what the Padres are capable of, as they face two teams that are similar to San Diego in terms of approach.

Looking ahead:

After an off day today, the Padres take their talents to South Beach for a three-game set against the Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez are two of the young studs in today’s game, but they too will bank on grinding out innings and shortening the game for a less than stellar offense. After the weekend trip, San Diego heads to Cleveland for a trio of games with the Indians. Cleveland’s pitching staff is underrated but, again, their hitting isn’t going to scare anybody (especially with Michael Bourn battling an injury).

The pick: If Andrew Cashner was pitching twice in these two series, I’d like the Padres to win four of the six games. They still could, but I’ll say San Diego wins two of three against the Fish and drops two of three against the Tribe, resulting in a .500 week.

 

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