But, man, if there wasn't meaningful symbolism all over the place on Monday night:
1. The Padres are looking to put their dreadful August in the rearview mirror, and what better way to exorcise those demons than by knocking around D-backs left-hander Tyler Gilbert, the rookie who’d no-hit them 16 days earlier in the first start of his career?
2. When the Padres have struggled this season, it’s generally because their starting pitching depth is nowhere to be seen. Well, Chris Paddack returned from the injured list on Monday and worked 4 2/3 impressive innings, the only run against him scoring on a wild pitch after he’d been removed.
3. The Padres are trying to prove they can take care of business against bad teams, having put forth a 37-37 record against sub-.500 opposition this season entering play. They took care of business.
4. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Fernando Tatis Jr. was the spark. Having struggled for most of the past two weeks since his return from the injured list, Tatis launched a 444-foot first-inning homer and went 3-for-5.
Mix all of that together with the fact that the Reds finished a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals mere moments before first pitch, and that’s an awful lot of positive energy whipped up into one game of baseball, even if the Padres bullpen nearly relinquished a late five-run lead.
“We’re in the middle of a race, September baseball, you can’t ask for much more,” said center fielder Trent Grisham. “We’re excited.”
Now, for the important part: All of those positive developments need to carry over.
The Padres need to keep getting solid performances (and good health) from their starting rotation. They need to beat the remaining bad teams on their schedule. And they sure as heck need Tatis playing like the MVP favorite he is.
When asked about what it means to the rest of the lineup to have Tatis’ bat clicking, Grisham put it rather succinctly:
“It usually means we win,” he said. “So we like that.”
Tatis set the tone for the victory in a big way. His two-run homer sparked an early outburst that saw the Padres on top 5-0 after three innings, as they later capitalized on some woeful D-backs defending. Eric Hosmer’s 453-foot solo blast made it 6-1 in the seventh.
Then, when Arizona had climbed within a run on Ketel Marte's grand slam, it was Tatis who helped author the response. After Manny Machado’s one-out double in the ninth, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo decided to pitch to Tatis with first base open. Tatis demolished an RBI double off the right-center field wall, giving the Padres some much-needed insurance.
“Things got tight there late when Marte hits the grand slam,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “Manny steps up and puts one off the wall, and then Tatis answers back with him. All of a sudden, it’s not a lot of breathing room, but you’ve grabbed a little bit more.”
The Padres bullpen, which had been excellent for most of the season, continued its recent struggles. But given an early cushion, Paddack was excellent, in spite of the fact that he hadn't pitched in more than a month because of a left oblique strain.
Paddack struck out five and walked none while allowing just three hits. His changeup was particularly effective, as he notched four whiffs on six swings at the pitch.
“Paddack did a good job of getting us back in the dugout,” Tingler said. “Overall, I was happy with the way he competed and threw the ball tonight.”
Paddack’s return means that, at long last, the Padres have a healthy starting rotation. They'll send a red-hot Blake Snell to the mound on Tuesday. Meanwhile, their MVP is hitting like an MVP again, and they’re finally getting some help on the scoreboard.
It’s been three weeks since the Padres last won consecutive games. Tuesday feels like as good a time as any to reverse that trend.