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Padres' young stars shine brightest vs. D-backs

Reyes' 15th home run backs Paddack's 7-strikeout gem
@AJCassavell
May 21, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' offense has its flaws. So does the rotation. But the Padres' offense has Franmil Reyes, and the rotation has Chris Paddack, and sometimes that’s good enough. On Monday night, it was. Paddack worked six excellent frames to bounce back from his first poor start as

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' offense has its flaws. So does the rotation.

But the Padres' offense has Franmil Reyes, and the rotation has Chris Paddack, and sometimes that’s good enough.

On Monday night, it was. Paddack worked six excellent frames to bounce back from his first poor start as a big leaguer. Reyes smashed a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning, his 15th of the season. The two budding stars powered San Diego to a 2-1 victory in the series opener against the D-backs at Petco Park.

Box score

It’d been a rough week for the Padres, who entered play having dropped six of seven. They’d fallen below .500 for the first time this season, before Monday’s victory brought them to 24-24.

“Whether I'm on the mound or not, I hate losing,” said Paddack, who allowed one run and dropped his ERA to 1.93, the lowest for a Padres pitcher through his first nine career starts. “I just get sick to my stomach. I knew tonight was that game where I needed to get this, to get the energy back on our side.”

Mission accomplished. Although, in reality, the Padres’ struggles have never clouded the big picture. The future is still very bright in San Diego, and Reyes and Paddack are clearly among the pieces worth building around.

Paddack is an emerging ace. Reyes is one of the sport’s elite sluggers. They’re suddenly two of baseball’s most exciting players, and they’re both 23.

“When you've got a guy on with two outs, and Franmil's up to the plate, everyone's off their seats, and right there on the rail,” said Paddack. “He crushed that one tonight.”

The respect is mutual.

“It's really fun to watch from the outfield, how he attacks hitters and how he gets fired up every time he strikes somebody out,” Reyes said. “He fires up the whole team.”

Paddack throws crazy strikeout pitch

After allowing six runs in Los Angeles last week, Paddack vowed that things would be different on Monday night. He backed it up. When he painted the inside corner with a 94-mph fastball to end the first inning, Paddack skipped off the mound and pumped his fist.

The brazen right-hander was pinpoint with his fastball all night, striking out seven and inducing 12 swings and misses. He only allowed a run in the third inning after two seeing-eye singles -- one of which bounced off his glove. But Padres’ offense couldn’t break through until Reyes strode to the plate in the sixth.

“Any pitch they throw close, I'm going to do damage,” Reyes said. “I'm just feeling pretty good right now.”

No kidding. Reyes’ 15 homers are tied for fourth in the Majors, behind only Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and George Springer.

“He's got big power,” said Padres skipper Andy Green.

D-backs right-hander Luke Weaver was sharp all night. But he grooved an 87-mph slider, and Reyes lofted it over the right-center-field wall.

“It felt great,” Reyes said. “I didn't feel my hands at all. Got it right on the barrel.”

“You can’t make mistakes to him,” said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo. “We’re still trying to identify some soft landing spots where we can limit the damage. But he’s a good player. He’s a good hitter. When you make a mistake, that can happen.”

After circling the bases, Reyes returned to the dugout, and he immediately sought his bat -- a 34-inch, 31-ounce piece of lumber. It was a new model, which had arrived earlier that day. Reyes held the bat in both hands, and he planted a kiss on the barrel. One smooch wasn’t enough, so he did it again.

Reyes kisses bat after homer

For a moment, it was enough to make Padres fans forget about the past week. Sure, San Diego isn’t getting enough production from the bottom of its lineup. Sure, there are serious questions about the long-term viability of the league’s youngest rotation.

But when Chris Paddack is painting corners and hollering as he leaps of the mound, and when Franmil Reyes is hitting moonshots and kissing his bat, it’s easier to remember the big picture: Some of the sport’s best young talent resides in San Diego.

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