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Margevicius hit hard; Padres turn page to L.A.

@MannyOnMLB
May 12, 2019

DENVER -- The Padres have an off-day Monday, a day that will serve as the bridge between two very different mindsets. In their 10-7 loss to the Rockies in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Coors Field, rookie left-hander Nick Margevicius was hit hard for five runs on eight hits

DENVER -- The Padres have an off-day Monday, a day that will serve as the bridge between two very different mindsets.

In their 10-7 loss to the Rockies in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Coors Field, rookie left-hander Nick Margevicius was hit hard for five runs on eight hits in five innings, including a pair of long Charlie Blackmon home runs.

Box score

San Diego dropped two of three in Colorado. Though Sunday included Austin Allen's first Major League hit and a three-run blast by Franmil Reyes in the ninth in a belated comeback bid the flight to the next destination on its road trip likely will involve reflection about what went wrong, followed by a transition into an excitement that hasn’t been felt in and around the franchise in many years.

When their plane lands, the Padres will be in Los Angeles to open a two-game set with the Dodgers on Tuesday. And there couldn’t be a more appropriate pitching matchup slated for that night: rookie right-hander Chris Paddack and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw.

“It’s a great step forward for Chris,” manager Andy Green said. “It’s a great challenge.”

That description also applies to the series as a whole, and the respective identities of the clubs involved. The challenger is an up-and-coming group of mostly young and exciting players, with a superstar as its cornerstone and a star-in-the-making at shortstop.

These players represent what could be, the aspirations of a franchise intent on competing for the postseason -- and eventually, the ultimate prize -- year-in and year-out.

The incumbent has established its hegemony over the National League West, having won six consecutive division titles. It is a World Series contender right this moment, seeking to reach the Fall Classic for the third consecutive year.

It’s Paddack -- the exciting, up-and-coming challenger -- and Kershaw, the decorated incumbent whose greatness is undisputed.

This pitching matchup symbolizes more than two starters climbing the hill for a regular season game in May. It’s a metaphor for the position of both teams in their common pursuit of a championship. One is far closer than the other but watching the other rise quickly out of the gate.

“Am I thinking about that? Of course,” Paddack said. “I’ve always been told that if you’re not nervous, you’re not ready. But it’s the same game. And you’ve seen it: at the beginning of this year, we knew we had something special. We’ve surprised a lot of people, we’ve kind of been the underdog, and I think we use that as energy.”

“Energy” would be an understatement to describe the vibe Paddack exudes on the mound. The 23-year-old has taken MLB by storm with a 1.55 ERA and 31 percent strikeout rate over his first seven career starts. And he wears his emotions on his sleeve, as evidenced in the Padres’ series against the Mets earlier in the week.

Paddack was asked about Mets rookie slugger Pete Alonso, who recently won the NL Rookie of the Month Award for April. He replied, “I’m coming for him. We’ll see Monday who the top dog is.”

Paddack turned in his finest performance to date, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless frames and striking out 11, including Alonso twice in a 4-0 Padres win on May 6. When Alonso belted a homer the next day off reliever Adam Warren, the camera panned to Paddack, who had an icy look on his face.

Paddack’s fire is burning all the time, on the mound and off, and it will finally be unleashed against the top dogs in the NL West on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a pretty exciting moment,” Paddack said. “I didn’t get to pitch when they came to our place last week, and I had so much energy in the dugout. I can’t imagine the feeling going out there on top of the hill in front of all those fans. I’m looking forward to pitching against one of the greatest to ever pitch in this game.”

As they left Denver on Sunday evening, Margevicius and Paddack were headed in different directions this season. Margevicius, much like any rookie hurler, is trying to find his place, and Paddack is already trying to establish himself as one of the best starters in the NL.

But as the Padres head west, the mindset transitions.

“Unfortunately, we came out with a low ebb today,” Paddack said. “This team does a really good job of bouncing back. We’ve got an off-day tomorrow to clear our heads and get ready for Clayton Kershaw.”

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.