October 5, 2022

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3 takeaways from the Padres' NL West battle

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SAN FRANCISCO — After a month in Arizona and three days in San Francisco, the Padres are headed home with four wins to show for their season-opening seven-game road trip — and a palpable disappointment that it wasn’t more, given the nature of Wednesday afternoon’s 2-1 loss to the Giants at Oracle Park.

“We’d like to try to sneak one more out,” said manager Bob Melvin. “But over .500 on the road. We finally get to go home and play in front of our crowd, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s series finale: 

1. The Manaea trade was bigger than we realized
It’s been a whirlwind 10 days for left-hander Sean Manaea. On April 3, the morning of his final spring start, Manaea was acquired by the Padres — then faced all of his former teammates with the A’s. He still hasn’t been to San Diego since the deal. But he did get a chance to stay in his Bay Area home this week and pack a few of his things.

When San Diego added Manaea, the move was billed as an upgrade to its rotation depth. But it’s been a whole lot more than that. The team’s pitching depth is already on unsteady footing in the wake of Blake Snell’s injury. Manaea shores that up. The Padres’ relief corps was also in desperate need of a deep outing from Manaea on Wednesday after Yu Darvish recorded only five outs on Tuesday night.

“That’s my goal, just eat up innings,” Manaea said. “That’s pretty much all I want to do. If I eat up innings, then I’ll have success.”

Manaea wasn’t quite as sharp as he’d been in his first Padres start — seven no-hit innings against the D-backs on Friday night at Chase Field. But he was excellent nonetheless, dueling with Giants right-hander Logan Webb.

Manaea pitched six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks — both runs coming on Luke Williams’ second-inning double. It put the Padres in a hole they couldn’t climb out of, because…

2. Right now, the Padres’ offense is missing its thump
The Padres were always going to miss the firepower of a 42-homer shortstop like Fernando Tatis Jr. But their offense should still be a bit more proficient in the power department than it’s been.

Through seven games, San Diego has recorded only four homers — two of which came off the bat of Jurickson Profar. Manny Machado, Luke Voit, Eric Hosmer and Jake Cronenworth have all been feisty at the plate this season, finding ways to reach base. But they’re also all without a home run. Is there any reason to be concerned about the lack of slugging?

“It’s early to say that,” Melvin said. “We’re going to hit our share of home runs. We just haven’t done it early on.”

Of course, the Padres were facing one of the division’s pre-eminent aces in the series finale. Webb kept San Diego hitters off-balance across eight excellent innings, allowing just four hits and one run — when Cronenworth tripled home Machado in the first.

“We haven’t hit our stride offensively yet,” Melvin said. “But Webb was really good today.”

3. Melvin’s maneuvering
As evidenced by his past 10 seasons with Oakland, Melvin is one of the sport’s most aggressive managers in terms of pinch-hitting. He’s ranked well above the American League league average in usage of pinch-hitters in nine of those 10 seasons — with the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign as the only outlier.

With San Diego, however, Melvin hadn’t really taken any late-game gambles. Until Wednesday, that is.

The Padres worked the bases loaded against Giants closer Camilo Doval in the ninth. Cronenworth singled, Hosmer worked an excellent eight-pitch walk and Profar was hit by a pitch. All three had done so while hitting from the left side.

With two outs, righty-hitting Wil Myers was due up. But Myers is off to a slow start and has typically struggled against right-handers with high-octane sliders. So Melvin called for the lefty Matt Beaty — an on-base weapon in a situation where a walk would’ve done the trick.

“If Wil’s swinging good, it’s one thing, but that’s one of the reasons we got Beaty,” Melvin said. “The left-right [splits] on Doval are a little better. Our lefties in that inning had better at-bats off him, too. So you try to get the best potential matchups. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.”

With the count 1-1, Beaty shot a liner down the right-field line that, for a split second, looked like it might be a bases-clearing double. It landed five feet foul. Beaty chased a slider with the next pitch, ending the game.

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