SAN DIEGO – About a month ago, Padres wrapped up a streak against the Cubs who were sitting eight games above 0.500 and searching every part for the contender they claimed were all out of the season.
Well, the skeptics were quick to note that they didn’t play much of the table. In the next four weeks, this was about to change. The Padres will face a plethora of contenders – The Brewers twice, the Braves, the Phillies, the Giants, and the Cardinals. To top it all off, they will face the hot Mets, with the best record in the National League, in a three-game series at Petco Park.
So now that we’re at the back end, are the 2022 Padres games real? It certainly looks like that.
On Wednesday night, San Diego handed a second straight overall defeat to No. 1 New York, this time with a 13-2 victory ahead of the booze-filled Petco Park. Sean Manaea made seven dominant rounds, Jake Cronenworth had five RBIs as part of a three-stroke game and Jurickson Profar continued to thrive in pole position, collecting two hits and three RBIs.
It was a sure end to the numbers that will be one of the toughest stretches on San Diego’s schedule this season. In that 25-game period – which also included a three-game streak against the Buccaneers – Padres went 15-10. They wrapped it up with back-to-back victories against the team leaders in the NL Central (Brewers) and NL East (Mets).
Of course, as Provar said, “We have a good team too.”
As usual, the Padres rode their primary pitcher on Wednesday. Mana only allowed one hit during the first six rounds, which was Jeff McNeill’s song on the second. The left-hander finished after allowing two runs (one of which happened) across seven frames, continuing his impressive run for the San Diego start session.
“I thought it was cool,” Padres coach Bob Melvin said. “He set the tone early in the game, and put zeros through six runs. He was really, really, really consistent.”
Manaea have made no less than six innings in 10 of his 11 matches this season, joining teammate Joe Musgrove as the only bowler in the Eredivisie to do so multiple times. (San Diego teammate Yo Darvish has nine, tied for third.)
No team in baseball has gotten more from their starts by at least seven games. As Melvin quickly put it, “The difference between six and seven is huge.”
Starting seven straight runs from Darvish and Manaea, the Padres have used only four bowlers over their past two games together. After Thursday off the day, they will be ideally set up for four games in three days this weekend against the Rockies.
Padres beginners are clearly doing their part. But they didn’t get much support until recently. Wednesday’s 13 runs in San Diego hit their season high, and every member of the starting lineup scored a hit.
“We’re starting to publish it a little bit more offensively,” Melvin said. “Although the first two players in the squad did a lot of damage.”
In fact, the biggest reason for the offensive re-emergence was the emergence of Profar and Cronenworth at the top. Kronworth, in particular, struggled for the greater part of the first part of the season. He finished three times of the course on Wednesday and led in high-profile five runs, coming in with two doubles in the fourth and three runs down the right lane in fifth.
Just like this, Cronenworth’s WRC+ is 98. For starters: Weighted runs are generated plus an overall hitting scale so 100 is the league average. So, Kronworth has essentially worked his way back to the league average this year, despite all those hardships early in the season. (And he did so with his usual distinguished defense at second base.)
“I’ve felt pretty good for the past three or four weeks,” Kronworth said. “I’ve just been trying to find something that puts me in the right place. To see it pay off, it’s awesome.”
Kronworth’s resilience can be extrapolated to his team’s ability. The Padres were swept away last week in St. Louis and stared at a straight streak against the Brewers and Mets. They took three of the four in Milwaukee. Then, after losing to New York on Monday, they responded with a vengeance, outsmarting the Mets 20-2 in their last two games.
“This was huge for our confidence,” Melvin said. “Because we beat really good teams, and we did it in different ways.”
At the end of all this, the Padres not only survived their brutal month: they thrived. Now, they will have three consecutive weeks of matches against teams currently under 0.500. If they can handle these opponents, they may find themselves in very good shape the next time they face a team with a winning record.
That will be from June 30 to July 3 – a four-game series at Dodger Stadium.