SD's sweep key? 'I think it's the full stadium'

June 21st, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Remember all that doom and gloom when the Padres returned home from their 1-5 road trip last week? Was that four days ago? Or an eternity?

The vibe sure felt different after their 3-2 win over the Reds on Sunday afternoon at Petco Park. The victory completed a comprehensive four-game sweep -- the Padres’ first four-game sweep in a decade and their first four-game sweep of Cincinnati in franchise history.

Hard to imagine a better prelude to their crucial series against the Dodgers this week at Petco Park.

“It’s something we can build on,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “For us to get back on track a little bit, it was very encouraging.”

Then again, to hear the Padres tell it, they never got too far off track in the first place. Sure, they lost a few games; they had a rough road trip. But they were also confident enough to know it wouldn’t be long before they snapped out of it.

“We’re a really good team, and everybody knows that,” said second baseman Jake Cronenworth. “So coming in every day, everybody knows we have a chance to win. … That confidence can keep everybody level-headed.”

Added right-hander Dinelson Lamet, who worked five scoreless frames, while striking out seven:

“You’re always going to have those highs and lows,” he said. “It’s just a matter of being able to turn that page -- if things are going well or if things are going poorly. We have to be able to turn that page as a group.”

Lamet’s outing Sunday was one of the most encouraging performances in a weekend full of them for the Padres. He threw a season-high 81 pitches, and his slider was filthy.

A season ago, Lamet finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting and finished with a 2.09 ERA, the lowest qualifying mark for a starting pitcher in franchise history.

Lamet has been built up slowly this year after his 2020 season came to an early end due to elbow trouble. It took a while. But that electric version of Lamet might finally be back.

“Yeah, I don’t want to exaggerate, but I’d say I’m almost better -- in the sense that I have more experience,” Lamet said.

Scary thought.

And speaking of stars who might be returning to their 2020 form, it was quite a weekend for Wil Myers. He homered twice and tallied 10 total bases Friday night, then pounded out two more hits Saturday.

Sunday afternoon brought forth Myers’ most eventful plate appearance of the weekend. With two men aboard in the third inning, he lofted a triple into the right-field corner. When Joey Votto’s throw to third base kicked away from Eugenio Suárez, Myers scampered home, scoring on a triple and an error. That was the entirety of the Padres’ offense Sunday.

“That was awesome,” Cronenworth said. “He was going triple out of the box. Pretty sweet to see a Little League homer.”

After the game, Cronenworth was asked if he could pinpoint the biggest reason for the team’s turnaround this weekend. He had a theory.

“See, I think it’s the full stadium,” Cronenworth said. “You can credit it to a bunch of things -- guys having quality at-bats, great pitching and great defense. But I think that first night, with the comeback in the ninth there, I think that kind of sparked everything for the rest of the weekend.”

The Padres packed 150,587 into Petco Park across their four games this weekend, as the ballpark opened to full capacity for the first time since 2019. They rewarded those fans with four victories -- each win thrilling in its own right, but none more so than Thursday’s dramatic walk-off win.

No question, the weekend’s energy at Petco Park will carry into next week. The Padres’ three-game series against the Dodgers marks the first meeting between these two teams since San Diego took four of seven in April. All seven of those games felt like heavyweight fights.

“We always play great games against each other,” Cronenworth said. “They’re a great team. We’re a great team. So I think wherever each team is at during the season, when that series comes around, both teams are going to bring their ‘A’ game, no matter what.”

Added Tingler: “Both teams are going to lay it all out there, so it should be another fun series.”

Another fun series, indeed. And for the first time since Padres-Dodgers ascended to “rivalry” status in 2020, capacity crowds await in downtown San Diego.