May 29, 2023

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It's a Friars weekend with the 'wow' factor

3 min read

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s Dodgers weekend, and the Padres are playing some stunningly clean baseball as they enter an important series against a division rival.

Coming off a sweep of Cincinnati, the Padres have won four straight. They’ve yet to commit an error through 14 games, a remarkable number considering the previous modern era record for a season-opening errorless streak was 10 games, set by the 2018 Boston Red Sox.

“We felt like we were going to get good pitching,” manager Bob Melvin said. “If we could play good defense, create an identity as a team that could win close games and do the little things to win ’em, that’s what we put a priority on right away.”

Although the offense has been up-and-down, the Padres have done just about everything else well. The defense, the baserunning, the strike-throwing — all the proverbial “little things” have been squeaky clean over the season’s first two weeks.

“I know we haven’t been putting up the runs and hitting as well as we’re capable of, as a ballclub,” Manny Machado said. “But as long as we keep doing the little things, over the long period of the season, we’re going to be where we want to be.”

The Padres will get tested in a big way this weekend. The Dodgers — particularly this Dodgers team, with a loaded offense — feast on extra outs and free baserunners. A quick rundown of the pitching matchups for the weekend:

It’ll be Martinez’s introduction into the Padres-Dodgers rivalry, and you’d better believe he’s excited about it. He spent last season pitching in Japan (where he posted a patently absurd 1.60 ERA) with a brief detour to pitch for Team USA in the Olympics. But he took note from afar of the fiery nature of the games between the Padres and Dodgers last season.

“I know how intense those games were,” Martinez said. “I imagine it’s going to be like a playoff or Olympic-level energy. They’ve been the NL West favorites for a long time. This team, for a while now, we’ve felt like we want a big piece of that pie. There’s only one way to get it. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

The rest of the Padres, for the most part, are viewing the weekend with an any-other-series mentality. Yeah, it’s the Dodgers. But every win counts the same, they say. Melvin has preached that mindset, in an effort to keep the Padres focused on the things they can control.

But even Melvin can understand there will be something extra in the air this weekend.

“It’s going to be different,” Melvin said. “It’ll feel different, just because it’s them. You go out and do your thing, focus on what you need to do. But there’s nothing wrong with a raucous atmosphere.”

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