Paddack calls out Alonso, dominates Mets
Feud brewing between rookies as Padres righty outduels deGrom
SAN DIEGO -- Round 1 to Chris Paddack.
There’s a feud brewing between two of the best young players in the National League. On Monday night, as San Diego rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Mets at Petco Park, the self-assured Padres right-hander took the upper hand.
It didn’t sit well with Paddack that Mets slugger Pete Alonso had earned National League Rookie of the Month for April. Paddack made his feelings clear before Monday’s game, when he told The Athletic, “I’m coming for him. We’ll see on Monday who the top dog is.”
Then, Paddack brought the goods to back it up. The rookie right-hander outdueled reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. He turned in 7 2/3 brilliant innings, striking out 11 (including Alonso twice) while allowing just four hits.
And Paddack did it with some serious swagger, too -- not that he knows any other way.
"Would you rather be Rookie of the Month or Rookie of the Year?" Paddack said afterward. "Nothing against Pete Alonso. Guy's a great guy and well deserved Rookie of the Month. ... But I just wanted to have a little fun out of it, get me fired up, get my team fired up."
Fired up? Paddack’s always fired up. But this was a different level. Paddack punctuated a four-pitch strikeout of Alonso in the first inning with a 97.9 mph fastball. It was his hardest pitch of the season. Paddack let out a yell and pumped his fist.
The next matchup ended in another four-pitch strikeout, this time to end the third inning. When Alonso waved at a 97.2 mph heater for strike three, Paddack skipped off the mound and unleashed something resembling a roar.
"If that's who he is, then that's who he is,” Alonso said afterward. “There are plenty of different personalities in the game, but at the end of the day, he shoved today. There's nothing we can do about it. He threw up a bunch of zeros. Especially with what he said, it's a tough pill to swallow.”
Alonso finished 0-for-3 against Paddack, whose 11 strikeouts were a career high and the most by any rookie in the Majors this season. Only one Met even reached second base. Afterward, Alonso made it clear he wasn’t thrilled to be called out.
“He said he wanted me, and he pitched really well,” Alonso said. “I know what he said. To me, it doesn't sit well. And for us as a team, it definitely sucks. It definitely sucks after this one. Definitely a sour taste.”
Prior to the game, veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler and Padres skipper Andy Green mused about whether they’d seen anything like it before. A rookie pitcher publicly calling out a rookie hitter -- for no other reason than the fact that Paddack really wanted to prove a point.
“That’s different in baseball,” Green said. “A scenario like that, having somebody call somebody out, you just don’t see it in this game. This game’s a marathon, and somebody usually gets you.
“But he’s got no fear. Most people, you try to bridle that. With him: Go ahead, man. Be you. Do what you do. Nobody’s going to stop you. We’re not going to limit him -- only in pitches.”
Indeed, Paddack’s strict pitch limit prevented a fourth meeting between the two rookies. When Jeff McNeil lined Paddack’s 91st pitch for a single off Eric Hosmer’s glove, Paddack’s night was done -- after career highs in pitches, innings and strikeouts.
It’s only Paddack’s second season since Tommy John surgery, and the Padres are steadfast in their desire to limit his workload. He pitched 90 innings in the Minors last year. The team mapped out a plan for his workload this winter, and thus far, they haven’t deviated.
“It’s absolutely painful taking him out of a ballgame,” Green said. “But as an organization, we’ve been committed to his health more than any one baseball game. Everybody sees how valuable he is. It’s not fun taking him out right now. It’s fun looking forward to the day when we cut him loose.”
Petco Park roared its approval as Paddack exited. Craig Stammen retired the final four batters, noting, “There’s no way I could let that game go to waste.” In the bottom of the eighth, Hosmer roped a two-run double to give the Padres a 4-0 lead.
deGrom had matched Paddack for most of the night, before he surrendered a line-drive homer to Hunter Renfroe, his second in as many games. That was all the support Paddack needed.
“I got to watch [deGrom] dominate the past few years,” Paddack said. “I've always told myself: ‘Why can't that be me?’ He threw a heck of a game as well. It was fun to come out on top tonight. With baseball though, we've got a long season ahead of us. I hope I face him again in New York.”
The reception there might not be so kind.