SAN DIEGO -- Maybe D-backs left fielder David Peralta doesn't make that spinning, running catch in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday. And if so, maybe the Padres could still be undefeated. But aside from a couple bad breaks in the ninth inning on Sunday, things couldn't have gone much more smoothly for the Friars in their opening series.
After a 6-2 victory over the D-backs on Monday afternoon, San Diego is off to a 3-1 start, with pretty much every aspect of its roster clicking. The bats came to life again on Monday. Trent Grisham launched his first homer of the season in the first inning, then Fernando Tatis Jr. tripled home three more runs in a five-run fourth.
“We had a lot of people contribute,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “It wasn’t any one guy. It was a huge group of guys stepping up and doing their jobs. That’s how we wanted to get started.”
Here are four things we learned from the Padres’ season-opening series victory:
1. It’s obvious why the Padres traded for Grisham and Profar
Tommy Pham was the Padres’ big offseason acquisition, and for good reason. San Diego’s offense has struggled to reach base for most of the past decade, and Pham -- one of the sport’s premier on-base threats -- was brought on board to reverse that trend.
But it took more than one acquisition to overhaul a lineup that has slumped into the bottom five in the Majors in OBP for six years running. In a pair of moves that garnered less acclaim, the Padres also traded for Grisham and Jurickson Profar. Their production isn’t quite at Pham’s level. But they work counts and frustrate opposing pitchers in much the same way.
That’s been the biggest story of the Padres’ offense thus far. Entering play, San Diego led the Majors with 23 walks, and it worked four more on Monday to bring that total to 27. Profar and Grisham have combined for eight.
“What we’ve shown is what we’ve preached all throughout Summer Camp,” Grisham said. “That’s going to continue to be the emphasis: Just grind out at-bats.”
That duo is also hitting higher in the lineup than most anticipated, with Grisham in the No. 2 spot against righties and Profar batting cleanup against lefties. That’s by design. If those two can reach base consistently, it’ll give big names like Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers a few extra RBI opportunities.
Of course, Grisham proved he’s capable of creating some offense of his own on Monday, and he enjoyed his first Padres big fly, even in an empty stadium.
“Show home runs are show home runs,” Grisham said with a wry grin. “No matter who’s in the stands, it feels good.”
2. The No. 4 spot in the rotation is a piggyback
All along, the Padres played coy about the back end of their rotation. They announced Joey Lucchesi as their Game 4 starter on Sunday, but even then, they gave little indication of how the left-hander would be used.
We found out on Monday. Lucchesi has a track record of success in his first two trips through an opposing order. But he only throws two workable pitches, and he has often struggled when facing hitters for a third time.
With 16 pitchers on the team's expanded Opening Day roster, the Padres saw no need to let Lucchesi get that far. Sitting on 61 pitches in the fourth, he was lifted for righty Cal Quantrill.
Quantrill and Lucchesi spent most of camp competing for the final rotation spot, and it turns out they're probably just going to share it. Lucchesi worked 3 2/3 frames on Monday, allowing two runs, before Quantrill worked 1 1/3 scoreless.
“As far as Joey and Cal, I’m just thrilled,” Tingler said. “Go out, pitch, throw as hard as you can, as long as you can. When we think the time’s right, we’re going to start making some moves. They both did their jobs today.”
3. Hosmer is still a force when he elevates
Hosmer was scratched on Saturday and Monday as he deals with a gastrointestinal issue that is not COVID-related. He’s expected to travel with the team to San Francisco, where the club is hopeful he’ll be able to build on his torrid start to the season.
Hosmer has come to the plate eight times, and he’s reached base in six of them, including three extra-base hits. He set a franchise Opening Day record with six RBIs on Friday before taking D-backs starter Zac Gallen deep on Sunday.
It’s especially noteworthy how Hosmer is getting those results. He’s hitting the ball hard and in the air. Over the past two seasons, only Wilson Ramos has a higher ground-ball rate than Hosmer’s 58.9 percent. But Hosmer has yet to hit a grounder this season. In those eight plate appearances, he has two walks, a popup and five balls he’s hit with authority. All five had an exit velo higher than 95 mph and a launch angle higher than 22 degrees, according to Statcast.
“All I know is: I can’t tell you how hard this guy’s been working, whether it’s on the field or in the cage,” Tingler said on Friday. “He’s a hungry guy right now.”
4. DH is a revolving door
In four games, the Padres have used four designated hitters. Tingler has used the extra spot in his lineup to play matchups and to give some regulars a partial day off. With 30 games in the first 31 days -- after a quick buildup to the season -- it seems likely that San Diego will continue its DH rotation to ensure its regulars get some time off their feet.
Over the weekend, Ty France and Wil Myers became the answer to a pair of trivia questions. On Friday, France served as the Padres' first DH for a regular-season game in San Diego. A day later, Myers hit the first homer by a DH. Josh Naylor was the team's DH on Sunday and Profar on Monday.
If the team continues to use regulars like Myers and Profar at DH, it seems likely Tingler will play matchups to work Edward Olivares and Greg Garcia into a few extra starts. They both started Monday and contributed in a big way. Garcia walked, then dropped a perfect safety squeeze to tie the game in the fourth inning. Olivares followed with a go-ahead single two batters later.
Zach Davies will take the ball for his Padres debut after arriving in an offseason trade with Milwaukee. The right-hander was reportedly sharp during his final intrasquad outing of Summer Camp, and he'll face the Giants in his first outing of the season at 6:45 p.m. PT on Tuesday, live on MLB.TV. Righty Jeff Samardzija will start for San Francisco.