Denied by their normally solid bullpen the chance to start a season 3-0 for the only the fourth time in franchise history, the San Diego Padres were in a bit of a scramble mode following Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 loss to the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park.
The simple question was, who is going to start Monday afternoon’s finale of the four-game series against the Diamondbacks?
Arizona had been committed to right-hander Luke Weaver since before the season started on Friday.
The Padres were TBA when it came to Monday’s starting pitcher. Zach Davies appeared to be the early candidate. But his name was never mentioned Sunday. Manager Jayce Tingler said it could be an opener or left-hander Joey Lucchesi. The decision wasn’t made until almost an hour after the last out.
Lucchesi starts Monday.
It’s not totally unusual not to have a starting pitcher lined up. But it is when the season is only three days old. And the Padres’ rookie manager said he was going to have to consult with others in the organization before making the final decision . . . adding to the intrigue.
Lucchesi is no stranger to starting. The 6-foot-5, 27-year-old has made 56 starts for the Padres in his first two major league seasons. Overall, he has an 18-19 record with a 4.14 earned run average with 303 strikeouts against 99 walks in 293 2/3 innings.
But he has had mixed results against the Diamondbacks. He faced Arizona only once last season and allowed four hits and a walk with six strikeouts in five scoreless innings. But as a rookie in 2018, Lucchesi was 0-5 against Arizona in six starts, giving up 20 runs in 29 2/3 innings for a 6.07 ERA. The Diamondbacks have hit .262 against Lucchesi.
“They saw a lot of me when I was a rookie,” Lucchesi said last year. “I pitched against them in the spring and the regular season. I’m a lot different pitcher.”
The pitcher with a quirky delivery is also much tougher at Petco Park, where he has a 13-8 record and a 3.16 ERA in 31 starts.
Weaver, who came to Arizona from St. Louis before the 2019 season as part of the trade package for first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, was 4-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 12 starts for the Diamondbacks last year.
He has a career 2-3 record with a 2.27 ERA in six starts against the Padres and is 1-1 at Petco Park with a 1.38 ERA in three starts.
The first three games of the Arizona-Padres series have also showcased two of the top young lead-off hitters in the game — 26-year-old switch-hitting Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks and 21-year-old Fernando Tatis of the Padres.
“They are two of the more dynamic players in the game,” said Arizona manager Torey Lovullo. “They are part of that group of young players who are going to be fun to watch for a long time.”
Ironically, the two Dominican Republic products each had their 2019 seasons shortened by the same problem — a stress reaction in their lower backs. Their slash lines were very similar.
Shortstop Tatis was limited to 84 games. He hit .317 with a .379 on-base percentage and a .590 slugging percentage for a .969 OPS. Marte, who was a National League All-Star second baseman, had a .329/.389/.592/.981 OPS and finished fourth in the NL MVP voting.
Tatis had two doubles and scored three runs in the two Padres wins to open the series. Marte was 2-for-3 and drove in Arizona’s go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the Diamondbacks win Sunday.
–Field Level Media