Padres Put a Flame Back In Baseball
Over the last couple of decades, the San Diego Padres haven’t had much of a spark. We all remember Khalil Greene’s golden hair that flew from shortstop, the chords from ‘Hells Bells’ that echoed off Petco Park’s walls and homers that Tony Gwynn rocked. But outside of being a San Diego local, recent history hasn’t proven many reasons to fall in love with the Padres. Besides, when your home team fails to make the postseason in 13 seasons, it becomes tough to rally behind.
Now in the year 2020 that couldn’t be further from the truth. This team is electric and is one of the most entertaining teams in baseball. Here are a few reasons why.
“El Niño” Can Do It All
Fernando Tatis Jr., otherwise known as “El Niño,” finally gives the Padres a face of the franchise they can rally behind. Even though he is barely old enough to buy a beer, the kid adds a flame to not only the Padres clubhouse but to the game of baseball itself.
Tatis does it all. He can score from first base on singles, hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count, fire a throw from the hole at lightning speed, and dance around a tag sliding into home plate. He leads the league in home runs (12) and RBIs (29) and is fifth in slugging percentage (.678). Tatis also has the hardest throw from an infielder this season at 93.5 mph and is among the Top 10 in running speed too. His mere existence brings an entirely new element of talent to this lineup.
Pads’ Lineup Stays Red Hot
San Diego deals and steals. They are second in the league in home runs (55) and runs scored (163). They’re fourth in slugging percentage (.468) and OPS (.799). Their hitting coach Damion Easley also influenced the team’s offensive strategy. For the past six seasons, the Padres were among the worst in on-base percentage. Now, after Easley encouraged more plate discipline, they’re tied for fourth in walks.
“These guys do a good job of managing each at-bat,” Easley said. “Even if they’re 0-for-2, 0-for-3, you know you’re still going to get a high-quality at-bat, and they’re going to make the pitcher work for it.”
They’re also swiping the second most bases with 28. And just last night, they became the first team in history to hit a grand slam in five out of six games and garnered the nickname “Slam Diego” Padres. They’ve shown complete domination at the plate and around the bags–and have the dances moves to show for it.
— Slam Diego Padres (@Padres) August 23, 2020
Relievers Battle Through Close Games
Lastly, their pitcher’s resilience runs deep into their roster. The bullpen ranks 14th in the Majors with a 4.35 ERA. Not bad but not great. Kirby Yates is set to face a season-ending surgery, and top reliever Drew Pomeranz is now on the injured list. The odds are stacked against them. However, the back end of their relief crew stepped up during laborious innings to secure tough wins.
Dinelson Lamet continues to impress with his breaking ball and Top 5 Strikeout rate. Cal Quantrill, Matt Strahm, and Javy Guerra are among the pitchers who will fill just about any role assigned to them. While these relievers may push to their breaking points as the season continues, they pulled through with quite a bit of grit over the past several games.
The 60-game season is nearly halfway over. Only time will tell if Tatis’s energy stays high, the Pads’ bats stay hot and the bullpen stays afloat. It took them long enough to catch fire, but this San Diego team deserves to be rooted for.
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