Cronenworth and Tatis both homered on Friday night, as the Padres opened their series against the D-backs with a 3-0 victory at Petco Park. Right-hander Zach Davies was excellent over 5 2/3 scoreless frames, and San Diego’s bullpen locked down the rest.
“Just a really good job, from pitching to team defense, and then obviously the difference in the game was three solo homers,” manager Jayce Tingler said.
The Padres were on top from start to finish. The first pitch from D-backs starter Luke Weaver was a thigh-high fastball down the middle that Tatis deposited in the home bullpen for his fifth homer of the season and his fifth straight game with an extra-base hit. It was Tatis' seventh career leadoff homer, three of which have come on the first pitch.
“I had a good feeling that he was going to be swinging,” Weaver said. “I know he's pretty aggressive on the first pitch. The ball just got away from me a little bit, ran out of the hand, and he got a hold of that one.”
Added Cronenworth: “First-pitch home run to left-center, there’s really no better way to get a dugout going.”
Cronenworth followed Tatis’ lead. Weaver’s first pitch of the second inning was a changeup, and the rookie infielder launched it into the right-field seats. In Eric Hosmer’s absence, Cronenworth has emerged as a force at first base. He’s batting .360 and slugging .840 after his 2-for-3 night.
But with Hosmer expected to return from the injured list on Saturday, Cronenworth is ticketed for a role change. He’s an excellent defender at all four infield positions. But the Padres are set at first, shortstop and third with Hosmer, Tatis and Manny Machado, respectively.
Second base? That’s wide open. In the long term, San Diego is optimistic that CJ Abrams, its No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will assert himself there. But Abrams is only 19 and still a year or two away from reaching the big leagues. In 2020, second base might be Cronenworth’s job to lose.
“I’m just filling in for Hoz right now, trying to do the best I can,” Cronenworth said. “We hope to get him back, whether it’s [Saturday] or whenever. Just hoping that he’s healthy. It’s just another great bat in our lineup.”
Fortunately for the Padres, Cronenworth’s skill set is such that he won’t head to the bench when Hosmer returns. With right-hander Merrill Kelly starting for Arizona on Saturday, Cronenworth seems like a safe bet to start at second.
Considering the way Cronenworth is playing, is there any way Tingler can afford to leave him out of the lineup?
“No, probably not,” Tingler said. “He’s playing well, defense has been good. His at-bats have been great. … He’s going to continue to play, and as long as he’s playing good defense, being the same person and being a tough out at the plate, what more can you ask for?”
Throughout camp, the Padres touted Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and Garrett Richards as three Opening Day-caliber starters. But a little rotation depth never hurts. Thus far, Davies has brought exactly that.
With his shutdown performance, Davies lowered his ERA to 2.87 through three starts. He's struck out 13 hitters, while issuing only one walk.
“It’s staying at the bottom of the zone, trying to live off soft contact,” Davies said. “Strikeouts are great, but at the same time, my goal is to try and get guys out as quick as possible.”
Davies used his fastball/cutter/changeup combo masterfully, keeping D-backs hitters off-balance. He retired the first 13 batters he faced, not allowing a baserunner until Eduardo Escobar's one-out single in the fifth.
Davies didn't throw a fastball harder than 90.4 mph. But his pitching style has never been about velocity. Davies was particularly dominant in the third, striking out the side -- all swinging, all with changeups below the knees.
“Zach does it in a unique way,” Tingler said. “He locates. The pitches come out of the same hand spot, and he creates the same arm speed on all his pitches. It’s tough to pick up.”
Oli on the board
Edward Olivares was all smiles Friday night -- and why shouldn’t he be?
With the Padres facing a string of right-handed starting pitchers, Olivares, their No. 21 prospect, hadn’t seen game action since last Saturday. But when the D-backs brought in left-hander Alex Young to start the fourth, Oliveras was an obvious pinch-hit candidate.
Olivares batted for Abraham Almonte in the fifth, working a 2-0 count before crushing a 91 mph, outer-edge fastball the opposite way. As the ball cleared the right-center-field fence, Olivares broke into an ear-to-ear grin while rounding second base.
“I knew I had made good contact,” Olivares told FOX Sports San Diego after the game, through an interpreter. “I knew that I hit the ball pretty hard. But I wasn't sure if it was going out. So I was running hard, then once I realized it was going out, I got super excited. I hit my first home run in the big leagues.”