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Padres bust out with season highs in runs, hits

Kinsler, Myers homer as offense puts up consecutive 5-run innings
@AJCassavell
May 2, 2019

ATLANTA -- The Padres entered Thursday's series finale in Atlanta with one of baseball's best rotations and one of its worst offenses. That's not the way they drew it up. San Diego revamped its lineup during the offseason but did little to address a rotation with a league-worst ERA. Something

ATLANTA -- The Padres entered Thursday's series finale in Atlanta with one of baseball's best rotations and one of its worst offenses. That's not the way they drew it up. San Diego revamped its lineup during the offseason but did little to address a rotation with a league-worst ERA.

Something had to give, right? On Thursday, it did -- and it broke in the Padres' favor.

On the mound, they got more of the same. At the plate, they broke out in a big way. In an 11-2 victory at SunTrust Park, the Padres pounded out season highs in runs and hits (17).

It was a slump-busting afternoon for most Padres hitters, but no one more than Ian Kinsler, who entered the day hitting .151 but went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a homer. Wil Myers also broke an 0-for-16 drought with a fifth-inning single, and he homered an inning later. Seven Padres had multi-hit games.

"This is definitely what the offense is capable of doing," said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who went 3-for-4. "It was good to have a day like this where we broke out."

Left-hander Matt Strahm cruised through five frames before surrendering two runs in the sixth. He struck out six and lowered his ERA to 3.03. Out of nowhere, the rotation's ERA is sixth best in the Majors.

And therein lies the most important question facing the Padres this season: What are they?

Are they a poor offensive club with a pitching staff that's punching above its weight? If so, the Padres could be in for a long summer.

Or are they a team with truly top-tier pitching and an offense that's about ready to wake up? If so, the Padres could make a run at postseason contention for the first time in nine years.

So what are they? And what gives first? The 2019 season will be defined by it.

THE PADRES OFFENSE

The case for it
The Padres scored five runs in back-to-back innings for the first time since 2000 -- and they didn't even have Fernando Tatis Jr. to jump-start things. In that regard, Thursday offered an easy case for the offense's potential.

"We're not even clicking yet, and we've been able to win some games," Manny Machado said. "We're not hitting up to our capability, but ... what we did today is a little glimpse of what's going to continue to happen."

They might not score 11 runs every day, but there's reason for optimism. Machado has a .709 OPS -- well below his career average. Given his history, it's fair to expect a breakout. Meanwhile, Hosmer appears to have moved past his slow start, as has Franmil Reyes, one of the game's most underrated sluggers.

"Hitting's contagious," Kinsler said. "It was today."

The case against it
It's a new season, but the same issues are plaguing the Padres. They've finished last in the Majors in on-base percentage for five straight seasons, and they entered play with a .279 OBP. Only the Giants were lower.

That mark isn't good enough, and it's a product of another worrying trend. The Padres entered Thursday with a 27.1 percent strikeout rate, tied for the worst in the Majors. Even their best hitters are prone to whiffing, and most of them don't walk much, either.

The Padres' offense is probably better than what it's been over the season's first five weeks. But it's still flawed.

THE PADRES ROTATION

The case for it
It's not like the Padres have a group of starters drastically outperforming their past numbers. Instead, they have a group of starters who don't have many past numbers at all.

Strahm was excellent in the bullpen last year. He's been similarly excellent in the rotation. Chris Paddack posted video-game numbers in the Minors last year. He's doing the same thing in the big leagues. The rest of the group has been solid, too, and it might be time to start taking Nick Margevicius seriously.

Quietly, when the rest of the world predicted one of the worst rotations in baseball this spring, the Padres scoffed.

"We all believe in each other, we all support each other, and we all learn from each other, which is the big thing," Strahm said. "We knew [we'd be good]. But that's just the confidence this staff has."

The case against it
No doubt, Strahm and Paddack have been excellent. They will also have their workloads monitored closely this season. If indeed the Padres are in contention, their limitations will become the storyline of the summer.

Without Strahm and Paddack, the Padres would turn to Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer to anchor their staff. Thus far, their middling numbers have been basically the same as last season. Dinelson Lamet should return from Tommy John surgery at some point, but it's hard to predict what the Padres might get from him.

There isn't a rotation in baseball with a bigger gap between its upside and its floor. Thus far, it's been all upside. On Thursday afternoon, the Padres got the offense to match it.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.