As San Diego's longest-tenured player, Wil Myers is frequently asked about the stark differences between the current edition of the Padres and the other teams he’s played for since his arrival in December 2014.
Generally speaking, Myers’ answers are insightful and intricate. He’s spoken in depth about the organizational culture and the shift toward a winning mindset. But Myers perhaps put it best on the eve of the regular season, when he was asked that very question for the umpteenth time. What’s the difference, exactly?
"We have really, really good players," Myers said.
Simple as that. The 2021 Padres -- off to an 8-3 start and winners of four straight to start their road trip -- have really, really good players.
Myers among them, of course. The Padres' right fielder went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs as they opened a four-game series in Pittsburgh with a 6-2 victory.
Yu Darvish, too. The veteran right-hander delivered precisely what the Padres needed after they’d asked six relievers to cover 8 1/3 innings in Texas on Sunday. Darvish saved a beleaguered San Diego bullpen with seven innings of one-run ball. He was efficient and effective, striking out six and allowing just three hits.
“Not only yesterday, but we have a lot of consecutive games coming up,” said Darvish, fully aware that the Padres are in the early stages of a stretch with 17 games in 17 days. “Really, the goal for me tonight was to stay in the game as long as possible.”
Early in the game, Darvish said he was pitching to contact, looking to induce quick outs. Sure enough, he expertly breezed through four innings on just 52 pitches, though he recorded only two strikeouts in that period. As the game wore on, Darvish began to expand a bit more, looking for chases. He got them, too.
“He was outstanding,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “Yeah, you get the win. But it also resets some guys in the bullpen for us, which is huge. … He did exactly what we needed tonight.”
It was precisely the kind of outing the Padres intended for Darvish when they acquired him in December. He’s now worked at least seven innings in seven of his last 13 starts. He’s lasted at least six in 12 of those outings (save for an early exit on Opening Day this season, when he was on a pitch count).
“It’s a lot of fun to play behind,” Myers said of the Padres’ revamped rotation. “It’s pretty wild to see these guys, their nasty pitches. I’m glad I don’t have to face them.”
Musgrove, fresh off his historic no-hitter on Friday night, was named the National League Player of the Week Award winner on Monday afternoon -- a week after Eric Hosmer took home the honors. Dating back to last season, five of the last 10 NL Players of the Week have been Padres -- more than the franchise had seen in the previous six years combined.
As Myers said: good players. And through 11 games this season, it’s been different players starring on different nights, too.
“That just shows you the team we have,” Myers said. “Each guy we have in this lineup has the ability to take over a game, and when you fill a lineup with guys like that, each and every night you’re going to find a guy that’s going to be hot. That’s what makes a great team.”
The Padres look every bit like the complete team Myers envisioned before the season. Sure, they’ve played eight of their 11 games against last-place teams from 2020 -- but they’re winning those games, and winning them convincingly (though not necessarily flawlessly).
“You’re going to be in a lot of games when you’re pitching it and playing good [defense], and I like where we’re at offensively,” Tingler said. “We’ve still got a lot of room to improve, which is exciting as well.”