PHOENIX -- Look at these Padres, making history now because their starting pitchers just won’t allow any hits. What a difference a year makes.
It was only a year ago, of course, that the franchise was still agonizingly awaiting its first no-hitter. Fifty-two years into its existence, Joe Musgrove finally rewrote that script on April 9, 2021. Now, with the anniversary of that milestone approaching, a Padres starter still hasn’t given up a hit two games into the ‘22 season.
In Thursday’s season opener, Yu Darvish pitched six hitless frames in Arizona. Somehow, Sean Manaea managed to do him one better in the Padres’ 3-0 victory over the D-backs on Friday night at Chase Field. Making his Padres debut, Manaea worked seven hitless innings, allowing one walk while striking out seven. He and Darvish became the first pair of teammates to open a season with consecutive hitless starts.
“There’s a lot of baseball history,” said Manaea, who named Darvish as one of his favorite pitchers to watch. “The game’s obviously been around forever. To be a part of that is really special."
Darvish and Manaea are also the only teammates to pitch at least six hitless innings in consecutive games at any point during a season. Of course, neither starter was fully built up to his regular workload yet, meaning both were removed without a chance to go the distance.
Manaea had thrown 88 pitches when manager Bob Melvin went to left-hander Tim Hill for a second night in a row. And for the second night in a row, Hill gave up the D-backs' first hit -- this time a clean single by David Peralta.
It’s quite a start to Melvin’s tenure as Padres manager. In each of the first two games, he’s made the decision to lift a starting pitcher who was carrying a no-hitter.
“It wasn’t [a difficult decision],” Melvin said. “I’ve seen Sean get a no-hitter before. So he’s got one in his pocket. The velo was down just a little bit in the last inning. He actually talked me into going out for the seventh and had some hard-hit balls. It was time to go. He knew that. But for a first look in a Padre uniform, it was pretty darn good.”
Added Manaea: “I definitely, completely understand that. It would’ve been cool, but it’s my first start.”
The relationship between Melvin and Manaea dates back to their time together in Oakland. In his seven seasons in the big leagues, Manaea has only played for one manager. As such, Friday night marked a fitting way for Melvin to pick up his first win as Padres skipper.
“Apropos that Sean Manaea gets it,” Melvin said.
It was only five days earlier that the Padres dealt for Manaea, fortifying what was already a strong starting rotation. They figured their starters might have to carry them a bit, particularly while the offense awaits the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. But they certainly couldn’t have envisioned this.
Two games into the season, San Diego's starters have combined to pitch 13 hitless innings. But after the bullpen collapsed in the ninth inning on Thursday night, this time the Padres got to celebrate a brilliant outing from their starter.
“For a while, it felt like the same game as last night,” Melvin said.
The Padres took a 2-0 lead in the sixth on Jurickson Profar’s two-run homer, then they tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when Profar’s perfect bunt up the third-base line forced Drew Ellis to rush his throw, sailing it into right field. Newly acquired closer Taylor Rogers slammed the door on his first save with his new club (after he’d been unavailable in Thursday night’s loss).
“Manaea did a great job for us,” Profar said. “Same as Darvish [on Thursday]. That was awesome. They kept us in the ballgame. That’s what we expect from them, and that’s what we want to play behind.”
On Saturday, the Padres will celebrate the one-year anniversary of a franchise milestone, the day Musgrove finally ended their excruciating wait for that first no-no. The story was as perfect then as it is now -- the boyhood Padres fan becoming an instant hometown hero.
Fittingly then, after consecutive hitless starts from Darvish and Manaea, it’ll be Musgrove who gets the ball against the D-backs on Saturday night.
He couldn’t ... could he?