Takeaways after incredible 9-game 'W' streak

May 25th, 2021

The streak is over. Long live the streak.

Over the past nine games, as the Padres racked up their longest winning streak in 11 years, they could seemingly do no wrong. They got regular dominant performances from their starting rotation. Their offense was red-hot, top to bottom.

On Monday in Milwaukee, those trends came to a screeching halt in a 5-3 loss to the Brewers. Blake Snell labored, allowing five runs over 3 2/3 innings, and Brandon Woodruff, the Majors’ ERA leader, held the Padres scoreless for seven -- before their late rally came up short.

It’s a curious thought experiment to wonder how we’ll look back on this winning streak come, say, November. Was it the spark for a special season in San Diego? Or was it merely a fun blip on the calendar? The Padres get to determine that by what they do next. For now, here are nine things we learned during the nine-game winning streak:

1. Fernando Tatis Jr. is not human

Seriously. We knew he was special. But it's hard to top what he did during the final four games of that winning streak. Tatis missed the first five games while on the injured list after testing positive for COVID-19. In the team's series finale against the Rockies, he learned he'd been cleared 90 minutes before first pitch. He rolled into the clubhouse, took a few swings in the cage, then went 4-for-4 with a homer. Since his return, he’s 12-for-18 with 12 RBIs, four homers, four doubles and three walks.

2. The rotation has a ridiculous upside

Yu Darvish is an early Cy Young candidate. Joe Musgrove has been every bit as good as advertised. But the Padres hadn't gotten much else from their starting pitchers -- until recently. Chris Paddack has allowed just two runs over his past three starts, and his fastball has come back to life. Ryan Weathers and Dinelson Lamet have shown promise. Even Snell, whose Padres tenure has been mostly rocky, showed what he's capable of with six innings and 11 strikeouts vs. the Rockies last Wednesday. If they can put it all together consistently, the Padres might have the best rotation in baseball.

3. The depth is no joke

Considering how well they've played lately, it's easy to forget where things stood for the Padres two weeks ago. They saw five players land on the IL for COVID-19-related reasons, and they faced serious question marks about how they'd sustain so much attrition. Turns out, they had answers. The Padres' touted their depth all winter, and sure enough, bench pieces like Ha-Seong Kim and Victor Caratini stepped up, while Jake Cronenworth moved up to the No. 3 spot -- and hit like he belonged there.

4. Manny's hurting

Not that Machado would make the excuse. (He's had every opportunity, and he hasn't.) But it's worth wondering whether his ailing left shoulder has contributed to his slow start at the plate. Machado is hitting just .225/.323/.394 this season, and that shoulder injury has kept him out of the Padres' last four games. The team remains optimistic he’ll avoid a trip to the IL.

5. This is what they expect

Asked what, specifically, he’d learned about his team during the winning streak, manager Jayce Tingler said, “I don’t know how much I learned, because I think we knew. We knew how tough this group is. … Yeah, we’ve had a good run. Tomorrow’s time to start another run.”

6. Count on Cronenworth

The Padres lost five key offensive contributors two weeks ago. Now they’re dealing with injuries to two others -- Machado and Trent Grisham, who landed on the IL with a left heel bruise on Monday. The one constant throughout? Cronenworth. He owns the fifth highest average in the Majors among qualified hitters in May at .370, and he’s one of six hitters with at least 30 hits this month. Cronenworth is the only Padre to have played in every game this season.

7. Petco Park is going to be rockin’ this year

The undefeated homestand was only the second of at least nine games in Padres history and the first since 2009. The fans at Petco Park -- even amid limited-capacity crowds -- responded in kind. During the winning streak, the atmospheres steadily grew more raucous. Now, imagine what it’ll be like on June 17, when the Padres are slated to return to full capacity.

8. Diaz to the rescue

How about some love for Miguel Diaz, who’s had quite a journey? With Adrian Morejon out for the season, and some question marks surrounding Dinelson Lamet and Ryan Weathers, Diaz has stepped up as the long man the Padres needed. He’s pitched 13 innings, allowing only one run, including three scoreless on Monday. A former Rule 5 pick, Diaz missed most of the last two seasons because of knee injuries. Suddenly, he’s an integral part in one of baseball's best bullpens.

9. Swaggiest team in the league

If nothing else, the nine-game winning streak gave birth to the Swagg Chain. (Yes, that’s “Swagg” with two “G's.”) As Tatis noted Sunday: “We play good, and we deserve to look good.”