The San Diego Padres collapsed over the final third of last season while the Arizona Diamondbacks seemingly never got off the mat.
Both teams look for better times in 2022 and they get started Thursday night as the Padres open a four-game series against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
San Diego was sprinting toward a playoff spot when it owned the fourth-best record (67-49) in the National League on Aug. 10. However, the Padres spiraled downward and went 12-34 the rest of the way to miss the postseason and finish 79-83.
The plunge led to the firing of manager Jayce Tingler, and veteran Bob Melvin departed the Oakland Athletics after 11 seasons to take over the Padres.
Melvin is optimistic that a club with just one postseason berth in the past 15 seasons — it came in the shortened 2020 campaign — is ready to embark on a special season.
“You can’t help but think what a world championship would mean in San Diego,” Melvin told USA Today. “There are some big-time players here that want to bring a championship to San Diego.”
The Padres won’t have All-Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for the first two-plus months of the season after he fractured his left wrist during the offseason, possibly during a December motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic.
Tatis, 23, led the NL with 42 homers last season and finished third in NL MVP balloting. He batted .282 with 97 RBIs and 25 steals and played in a career-high 130 games despite missing time with multiple left shoulder injuries.
Ha-Seong Kim (.202 last season) is slated to see most of the time at shortstop during Tatis’ absence.
Meanwhile, Arizona (52-110) fell one setback shy of matching the dubious franchise record for losses set in 2004.
The Diamondbacks tied the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in the majors. Arizona also set a major league record by losing 24 consecutive road games.
Still, the Diamondbacks are optimistic they will move back up the standings this season.
“Everyone knows we’re not the team we showed we were last year,” Arizona ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. “We could come out here and accidentally do better than that.”
Bumgarner (7-10, 4.67 ERA in 2021) will be the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter for the third time in his three seasons with the club. The 32-year-old will square off against Padres right-hander Yu Darvish (8-11, 4.22) for the second straight season.
Neither pitcher was involved in the decision last season when San Diego recorded a season-opening 8-7 home victory. Bumgarner gave up six runs and seven hits over four innings, while Darvish allowed four runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Bumgarner was 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in three 2021 starts against the Padres. He is 13-13 with a 3.73 ERA in 41 career appearances (40 starts) vs. San Diego.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Bumgarner — the former San Francisco Giants ace — deserves to be the Opening Day starter.
“I want to acknowledge how hard he has worked and what kind of shape he came in here in,” said Lovullo, referring to the delayed start to spring training. “Compliments to him for the work he did during the (lockout), and he came in here and earned this moment.”
Darvish, 35, was an All-Star last season and was a stellar 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA entering July. However, a hip injury derailed him and he went 1-9 with a 6.65 ERA over the final three months.
Melvin studied Darvish’s approach this spring and liked what he saw.
“He’s always looking to get better,” Melvin said. “I’ve found, more than anything else, that he’s very, very driven in how he goes about his business.”
Darvish went 0-2 with a 6.65 ERA in five starts vs. Arizona last season and is 3-3 with a 4.53 ERA in 10 career outings against the Diamondbacks.
Arizona will be without the starting left side of the infield as both shortstop Nick Ahmed (right shoulder) and third baseman Josh Rojas (right oblique) are opening the season on the injured list.
San Diego won 11 of last season’s 19 meetings with Arizona.
–Field Level Media