The last thing the Padres wanted to do heading into their highly anticipated weekend series with the Dodgers was drop three of four games to the lowly Pirates in Pittsburgh. Coming off two straight losses in which they went 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position, the Friars needed a spark.
They got that and much more in an 8-3 victory to close out a 5-2 road trip Thursday afternoon, going 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
It was a welcome chaser for the sour taste left by the Padres’ offensive struggles of the previous two games, and made for a better five-hour flight home ahead of their first big test against the defending World Series champions.
San Diego put four runs on the board in the first inning thanks to Jake Cronenworth’s RBI double, Manny Machado’s third homer of the year -- a two-run shot -- and an RBI double by Tucupita Marcano in his first Major League start. Eric Hosmer added two on a double in the second, and Cronenworth and Machado each knocked in another with sacrifice flies in the fourth and sixth, respectively.
“We all kind of felt a day like this was coming,” Hosmer said. “You’re gonna go through stretches like this. The goal is to just bust out of these as quick as you can. I think a day like this, heading into a big series, is certainly gonna help us.”
Starter Chris Paddack, hoping to find his 2019 form, limited the Pirates to three runs (one earned) on five hits over five innings, walking two and striking out four. It’s a step in the right direction for the right-hander, who had a 5.63 ERA over his first two starts of the season.
The Padres can now head home on a high note before meeting the Dodgers for the first time since they faced each other in last year’s National League Division Series.
Manager Jayce Tingler said after the game that Fernando Tatis Jr. took light batting practice and “had his best day” with the bat since going on the injured list with a shoulder injury on April 6. Tatis sustained a partially dislocated left shoulder and partially torn labrum on a swing on April 5.
“Just a couple things we’ve got to go over with our medical team and things like that, and we’re optimistic that he’s got a good chance to be ready to play [on Friday],” Tingler said.
San Diego hopes that if Tatis is back in the lineup, he’ll be rejuvenated at the plate after beginning the season 3-for-18 with a home run. And Tatis certainly will look to redeem himself after going 2-for-11 (.182) in last year’s NLDS.
Left-hander Ryan Weathers, the Padres’ No. 5 prospect (No. 93 overall) per MLB Pipeline, is scheduled to make his first Major League start, and he’ll be thrown right into the deep end of the pool against Walker Buehler and the Dodgers.
“I expect him to be on the attack and to throw strikes and give us a chance to win,” Tingler said. “There’s a reason we’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and we’re excited for him. Obviously, it’ll be the second time he’s seen these guys, so it should be good.”
Weathers made the NLDS roster last October and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, making his Major League debut in Game 1. He’s appeared in three games this season and has given up one run over six innings. Tingler said there won’t be a specific pitch limit.
The Padres drafted Weathers, son of former MLB pitcher David Weathers, seventh overall in 2018 out of Loretto (Tenn.) High School. He made the jump from Low-A to the Majors last year and went to Spring Training with higher velocity on his fastball to go along with a solid slider and changeup.
Friday’s game will be the opening salvo in a season-long battle with the Dodgers for supremacy in the NL West. After reaching the postseason for the first time in 14 years in 2020, San Diego will look to take things further in ’21, which will mean dethroning Los Angeles.
“It’s gonna be a good test for us,” Hosmer said. “It’ll be fun to start the first of many series against these guys. But they’ve earned that right -- they’ve earned the right to be called the best team in baseball, they’ve earned the right to be atop the division.”
The Padres’ quest to claim those rights for themselves intensifies on Friday.