SAN DIEGO -- Externally, the Padres say they're merely happy to have a 2020 schedule. After being sidelined for 3 1/2 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they're not too concerned about who they'll be playing. The point is: They have games to play.
Still, Monday's schedule release was probably cause for a fist pump or two inside the organization. The Friars appear to have received a few important breaks -- which could prove critical in a shortened 60-game slate.
The Padres are scheduled to open their season with a four-game series against the D-backs beginning July 24 at 6:10 p.m. PT. In fact, they'll start a majority of their home games at 6:10 p.m., and none will start any later. (In the team's original schedule, pre-pandemic, 7:10 p.m. was to be the default nightly start time.)
The Padres' 60-game slate is comprised of 10 games against each of their divisional opponents in the National League West and 20 games total against the five teams from the American League West. The schedules are as balanced as they could possibly be, given the constraints of the situation, but Monday's announcement still seems to offer the Padres three distinct advantages:
1) Divisional home games
"You always want to be good in division," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said Monday, before the schedule was released. "This year in particular, if you don't play well in your division, you're eliminated. ... We're going to have to play very, very well facing the NL West."
Tingler might suddenly have an early advantage. If the Padres are going to make a run at the NL West crown, the Dodgers and D-backs are expected to serve as their primary competition. San Diego will play seven of its 10 games against Arizona at Petco Park and six of 10 against L.A. at home, as well.
The Padres are slated to host the Dodgers Aug. 3-5 and Sept. 14-16, and will travel to Los Angeles for a four-game series from Aug. 10-13. (To balance things out, San Diego plays the Rockies on the road seven times and the Giants six -- including a season-ending three-game series at Oracle Park from Sept. 25-27.)
2) Interleague edge
Entering Monday, the Padres knew they'd play six games against one AL West club, four against two others and three against the last two. Monday's unveiling is probably how most fans would've drawn it up.
The Friars will play six games against the Mariners, who finished in last place in the AL West last season. Meanwhile, they'll play only three games apiece against the A's and Astros, both postseason teams from a season ago, and AL West favorites again in 2020.
3) A favorable stretch run
The Padres are scheduled to leave the state of California only once in September -- for a three-game series at Seattle, Sept. 18-20. Eighteen of their 23 games that month come against teams that finished below .500 in 2019.
Perhaps more importantly, if the Padres find themselves in a pennant race down the stretch, they might be able to align their pitching staff to their liking. They have three days off in the last 11 days of the season. In a season that's been dubbed "a sprint," the Friars might be fresh enough to make a late charge.