Padres sweep as Gore earns first win with five shutout innings

April 21st, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres will roll into their highly anticipated showdown against the Dodgers this weekend as winners of four straight and fresh off an emphatic three-game sweep of the Reds at Petco Park.

MacKenzie Gore pitched five dominant innings and picked up his first career win on Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, Jurickson Profar homered and threw Joey Votto out at the plate as the Padres improved to 9-5 with a 6-0 victory. After 14 games in 14 days to start the season, there are plenty of good vibes to carry into the Padres’ first off-day.

Here are a few takeaways from the series finale:

Is Gore earning his rotation spot?
The Padres might have a tricky decision on their hands in the very near future. Mike Clevinger threw three solid innings in a rehab start with Triple-A El Paso on Tuesday night and could be pushing for a return to the rotation by the end of the month.

So where, exactly, does that leave Gore?

Well, at this point, it’d be hard to send him down, considering how well he has pitched in his first two starts. Gore struck out seven Reds across five innings, allowing four hits and two walks. He used a similar fastball-heavy mix to the one he used in his first start against Atlanta. But this time, Gore’s two breaking pitches were a bit more effective, particularly in the later innings.

“It looked like they were hunting his heater pretty much the entire game,” said manager Bob Melvin. “So I think the adjustment that he and [catcher Jorge] Alfaro made was good with his repertoire today.”

The Padres, of course, have some time before they have to sort out their Clevinger/Gore conundrum. (Heck, Blake Snell just threw his first bullpen since he was scratched due to an adductor injury, and soon enough, he’ll enter the fray.)

They’re convinced the situation will sort itself out. If the problem this season is that they have too much starting-pitching depth, well, that’s a problem they’re happy to work through. Gore doesn’t seem to mind.

“Look, I have a job to do while I’m here, and that’s to give us a chance to help us win any time I’m out there,” Gore said. “We have a lot of great pitchers. That’s a good problem.”

Maybe Profar is the answer in left
As Profar jogged to left field following the fourth inning, a chorus of fans chanted his name, and he broke into a full smile. He'd earned it.

Profar made a brilliant throw to the plate to nail Votto, taking away an RBI from Reds third baseman Colin Moran and ending the top of the fourth inning. In the bottom of the frame, Profar demolished a fastball from Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez for his fourth home run of the season, tying his total from all of last year. (In 124 fewer games.)

The Padres spent much of their offseason looking for a big-time outfield bat, presumably one they could slot into left field, while letting Profar assume a super-utility role. Instead, through 14 games, Profar has been that big bat himself. He leads the team in home runs, and he has played an excellent left field.

“He’s doing everything well right now,” Melvin said.

Come trade season, the Padres likely will look to add an outfield bat. That's true whether or not Profar locks down the everyday left-field job. Their offense has slumped, and that's the quickest place to find improvement, especially considering the lack of production they've gotten from Wil Myers, Matt Beaty and, at designated hitter, Luke Voit. They could still use another bat.

But Profar's emergence at least lessens that concern for the time being.

“I did a lot of work in the offseason,” Profar said. “I came in ready to show that I can play.”

He’s showing it.

The best possible payback
A day after Voit's collision with catcher Tyler Stephenson left Stephenson concussed and the Reds irate, two Padres hitters were plunked on Wednesday afternoon.

In the top of the fourth inning, Gutierrez hit Manny Machado square in the shoulder with a fastball. In the fifth, Gutierrez came inside with a fastball to Jorge Alfaro. The Padres catcher started and stopped his swing, and the ball connected with his left wrist.

Afterward, Melvin said he didn’t think either pitch was intentional.

“You know, it would be one thing if it wasn’t the leadoff guys,” Melvin said. “I don’t think there were any issues there.”

The Padres never retaliated. Instead, they got a better form of payback. Machado would came around to score on Profar's home run. Alfaro also came around to score on Trent Grisham's two-out double. That was already plenty of offense, but the Padres tacked on another in the seventh on Ha-Seong Kim's solo home run and two more in the eighth.

It’s a well-earned off-day. A big weekend awaits.