Padres cap sweep as newcomers step up

May 17th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- No Fernando Tatis Jr., no Eric Hosmer, no Wil Myers -- apparently no problem for the red-hot San Diego Padres. No matter how deep they have to dig to fill out a lineup card these days, they keep winning.

The San Diego offense is without a handful of its most important contributors. But if you didn’t check the box scores from this weekend’s series against the National League Central-leading Cardinals at Petco Park, you’d hardly be able to tell.

The Padres plated 23 runs across three games and capped a sweep of St. Louis with a 5-3 victory on Sunday. All eight of their starting position players reached base at least once. In a decisive four-run fourth inning, it was , , and -- a mix of bench pieces, journeymen callups and rookies -- who drove in the Padres’ four runs.

“I don’t know how you explain it, except it’s just a group of men coming together and all doing their part,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

San Diego still is awaiting the returns of Tatis, Hosmer and Myers, along with Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo -- all of whom landed on the injured list earlier this week with COVID-19 issues. Somehow, since the first of those IL stints came down on Tuesday, the Padres are 5-1 -- now half a game behind the Giants for the best record in the NL.

“It’s definitely been a team effort,” said center fielder . “We’ve got a bunch of guys stepping up. Big at-bats, big fill-ins on defense. That’s really it, just a bunch of guys stepping up, doing their jobs.”

Grisham is among them (though that was, perhaps, to be expected). He has been an on-base machine atop the Padres’ lineup, and his glovework remains as dazzling as ever.

In the top of the first inning, starter surrendered a two-run homer to Nolan Arenado, and he put two more men on base before Harrison Bader lined a missile to center field with two outs.

Grisham, the NL’s reigning Gold Glove Award winner in center field, was there to rob his counterpart. He ranged 51 feet in a mere 3.4 seconds and laid out for a ridiculous diving play. The play had a 15% catch probability -- and it might have been a game-saver.

“First inning, so you can be a little bit more aggressive,” Grisham said. “I saw the ball off the bat, went in, and knew that I could make a play.”

It kept the Padres alive for their methodical fourth-inning rally -- one that featured three walks, an error, a sacrifice fly from Kivlehan and Castillo’s first career hit.

No, those aren’t exactly the household names that the Padres spent the past few seasons acquiring. But they’re getting the job done just the same.

“Whether it’s your first game in the big leagues or you’ve been maybe a journeyman and bounced around -- you’re a Padre, and you’re part of the family,” Tingler said. “It’s a great environment in that clubhouse.”

The Padres’ four-run fourth inning made a surprise winner out of , who unexpectedly made his first career relief appearance. Lamet was especially sharp in his first inning, sitting 96-98 mph with his fastball and inducing several whiffs with his slider as he retired the Cardinals 1-2-3. Tingler and Lamet both agreed it was the best he has thrown this season.

There was some drop-off in Lamet’s second inning. He allowed a run on two hits and two walks but kept the Padres in front -- aided in large part by a brilliant double play started by Marcano at second base. The rookie made a diving stop on a sharp Yadier Molina grounder, and he had the composure to hop to his feet and deliver a strike to second base.

“He deserves all the credit there,” Lamet said of Marcano. “It was a really great play, and a big play especially given the situation.”

It was merely the latest example of the Padres’ immense depth paying dividends. Marcano has been the de facto replacement for Hosmer in the lineup, with second baseman sliding to first base. He started the double play and flipped to Kim, who has dazzled at shortstop in Tatis’ absence and whose bases-loaded walk tied the game on Sunday.

In total, the Padres worked Cardinals pitching for 26 walks in three games over the weekend. After a slow start to the season offensively, the Padres are averaging 8.4 runs across their last five nine-inning games.

“I’ve said it time and time again: It’s only a matter of time,” Grisham said. “These guys, this lineup, it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when, not if. It all came together these last six days.”

Sure has -- although the pieces of the puzzle probably look a bit different than the Padres ever would’ve imagined.