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Four takeaways after Padres' series sweep

A power trio; a rotation and closer in the zone; and a resilient bunch
May 22, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres celebrated the season’s 50-game mark in style, with an easy 5-2 victory over the D-backs at Petco Park on Wednesday afternoon. San Diego sits above .500, in second place in the National League West and squarely among a crowded group of early NL Wild Card

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres celebrated the season’s 50-game mark in style, with an easy 5-2 victory over the D-backs at Petco Park on Wednesday afternoon. San Diego sits above .500, in second place in the National League West and squarely among a crowded group of early NL Wild Card contenders.

There have been bumps along the way. But -- riding a 12-year playoff drought, and with one of the sport’s youngest rosters -- what reasonable Padres fan wouldn’t take those results at the 50-game mark?

As the Padres completed a sweep of the D-backs, the only real drama was whether the game would, in fact, become official. With San Diego leading by five in the fourth inning, the skies opened up and fans flocked for cover.

Box score

But soon enough, the rain subsided. Left-hander Eric Lauer was excellent over seven innings of one-run ball, and Greg Garcia pounded out three hits. The Padres, who fell below .500 for the first time on Sunday, responded emphatically by sweeping a division rival -- and jumping them in the standings.

Here are four takeaways from the three-game set:

1) A legitimately fearsome trio
Whatever the issues with the rest of the offense, the Padres have found a winning formula with their No. 2-3-4 hitters of Franmil Reyes, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer. Those three combined to go 5-for-10 on Wednesday, with two walks and three RBIs.

That came on the heels of consecutive games in which the Padres took the lead with a go-ahead homer in the sixth. On Tuesday, Machado singled home a run to cut San Diego's deficit to 2-1, and then he scored when Hosmer went deep. On Monday, the Padres were trailing 1-0 until Reyes hit a two-run shot.

“Man, it’s great to hit ahead of those guys,” Reyes said. “Every time I go to the plate, I try to get on base for those guys. I know they’ve got my back.”

Since the calendar flipped to May, Reyes, Machado and Hosmer have combined to hit .310/.350/.552 with 14 homers.

2) Maybe the rotation is sustainable -- for now, at least
The Padres entered the season with the youngest rotation in the Major Leagues -- and with at least two pitchers on innings and pitch limits. They’ve managed to work around those limitations, and the rotation’s 3.82 ERA ranks eighth in the Majors.

Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm have headlined that success, and they were excellent again in the first two games of the series. They’ve evolved into a nice 1-2 punch atop the rotation.

Both Paddack and Strahm have restrictions on their workload this season. It’s unclear how far the Padres might push them. It is clear, however, that they’re not willing to push the duo past 90 pitches. That’s where it’s important that San Diego gets length from pitchers like Lauer -- whose seven innings were a season high. The three Padres starters combined for a 1.89 ERA this week.

“It was a really good run through the rotation for those three guys,” manager Andy Green said. “... It’s a young group that we like, and we’ve been saying it all year long.”

“With the pitch counts they’re on, for them to give us six, seven innings every night, that’s pretty impressive,” said righty setup man Craig Stammen. “It means they’re throwing the ball really well, and it keeps [the bullpen] fresh.”

3) Yates has reached another level
Since he joined the Padres in 2017, Kirby Yates has been one of the sport’s most dominant relief weapons. But the high-octane right-hander has kicked it into another gear lately.

Yates saved all three games against Arizona this week, pushing his Major League-leading total to 20. He retired all nine hitters he faced, and he struck out six of them, becoming the first Padres pitcher in history with 20 saves in his team's first 50 games.

“Let him get 100 saves,” Green quipped, when asked about Yates’ usage.

Yates’ strikeout numbers have ticked up lately -- which is saying something because they were already ridiculously high. In his last 10 appearances, he has faced 41 hitters and fanned 24 of them.

4) These Padres have some steely resolve
It’s been a roller-coaster season for the Padres, who raced out to one of the best starts in franchise history (11-5) before they dropped six straight and fell to .500 on April 20. From there, they reeled off a season-high five-game winning streak.

This week, San Diego offered a similar response.

“That’s just what the season’s about, what the grind’s about,” Hosmer said. “The better teams are the teams that bounce back.”

The Padres have been without rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. for nearly a month. Outfielders Franchy Cordero and Travis Jankowski are on the injured list as well. When San Diego dipped below .500 on Sunday, questions loomed about the lineup’s depth and the rotation’s volatility.

Three days later, those questions remain. Yet the Padres are three games better in the standings -- and three games closer to Tatis’ return.

“It’s a resilient group,” Green said. “It’s a testament to who they are and their character.”

Added Stammen: “We’re here for the long haul.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.