Grisham looking to 'repeat' postseason success

Padres' Wild Card hero would be hard to sit, even against Dodgers' lefties in NLDS

October 11th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Padres manager Bob Melvin stuck with Trent Grisham through his prolonged cold stretches at the plate this season, consistently expressing faith that his Gold Glove center fielder would find a way out of his year-long slump.

Now that Grisham is red-hot? Melvin won’t have to think twice about keeping his bat in the lineup.

After watching Grisham emerge as the Padres’ surprise offensive star in their National League Wild Card Series victory over the Mets, Melvin said he expects the 25-year-old left-handed hitter to remain in the starting lineup against Dodgers lefties Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw, who will start Game 1 and Game 2 of the NL Division Series, respectively.

Grisham made only 28 starts against southpaws during the regular season, recording a .634 OPS over 134 plate appearances. But the Padres are hoping he’ll be able to maintain the production he showed during his breakthrough performance at Citi Field over the weekend.

Grisham reached base in eight of his 12 plate appearances against the Mets, homering twice off a pair of Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Grisham will draw another tough assignment in Urías, who logged an NL-best 2.16 ERA over 31 regular-season starts in 2022.

Grisham is 0-for-7 with three strikeouts against Urías, though he’s fared a little better against Kershaw, going 3-for-15 (.200) with one home run against the likely Hall of Famer.

“He’s had a history of hitting lefties, some years better, so it’s just all about how the quality of his at-bats are and what he means to us,” Melvin said during a club workout at Dodger Stadium on Monday. “He certainly had a great series, both at the plate and in the field.

“Even if production-wise offensively he’s down a little, he still makes up for it on the defensive end and on the running end as well. I expect him to be out there.”

If there was one player who badly needed a reset, it was Grisham, who batted only .184 during the regular season, the lowest mark among qualified Major League hitters. He was briefly benched in September, when he hit a nightmarish .107 with a 1 wRC+, though he remained playable due to his sensational defense in center field, where he finished tied for second among MLB outfielders with 15 Outs Above Average.

Grisham said he started feeling good at the plate going into the final week of the regular season and managed to carry it over into the beginning of the playoffs. Even so, he isn’t quite sure how to explain his sudden October resurgence.

“No one knows what it is,” Grisham said. “I’ve been waiting for it all year. It’s crazy that it’s come at such a meaningful time.”

While Grisham’s success in New York helped ease some of the frustration from his regular-season offensive woes, he knows the bigger challenge will be finding a way to sustain his momentum and help the Padres make a deep postseason run.

“Anytime you play well like that in that situation, it's going to give you confidence going forward,” Grisham said. “But the main goal is just repeat, repeat, repeat. It was just a weekend. We're looking to play for another three weeks to a month, so I'm worried about keeping it going.”

Melvin, for his part, believes this October breakout is a glimpse at Grisham’s true ceiling.

“He has the ability to be an All-Star,” Melvin said. “He was on the track to being one and then got off to a little bit of a slow start this year. He still hit some home runs, some deep home runs. His defense, if you look at the metrics, is outstanding, and some of the plays he's made here, too.

“He's just had a difficult season, and sometimes that beats you down a little bit. I think [he’s] reinvigorated by being in the postseason again. But Trent's got a lot more in his game. I really believe not only can he be a premier outfielder, he's got power, he's got speed. His career should take off into a different trajectory. Maybe just slowed down a bit this year, but he's a really good player.”