The Padres have allowed themselves to think ahead to how good their starting rotation could be and what that could mean for their success as a team. But not too far.
“Keeping us healthy is the main issue,” Joe Musgrove said Saturday night after throwing six innings in his first start of the season.
And just like that, the Padres’ excellent run of starting pitching, as well as their good fortune of not having to use their bullpen ended on Sunday.
Without their starting pitcher even taking the mound.
Blake Snell was warming up playing catch on the field as lineups were introduced about 15 minutes before first pitch. But at some point after that, he experienced tightness in his left adductor and was scratched from his scheduled first start of the season.
That is a story to watch.
It was not the main storyline for long Sunday. Just as long as it took for wild Caleb Smith to show up.
The Padres scored five runs in the second inning, all of them by their first five batters, and went on to crush the Diamondbacks 10-5 in the finale of their season-opening series.
Nabil Crismatt replaced Snell in the first and worked three scoreless innings before four of his fellow relievers finished off the Padres’ third straight victory.
The adductor injury, which involves muscle on the inside of the thigh near the groin, is what caused the Padres to shut down Snell in mid-September. It is something they will likely be careful with.
Losing Snell for a time could hasten the arrival of top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore, who followed a strong spring by throwing five shutout innings in Triple-A on Saturday. Mike Clevinger, who started the season on the injured list with a knee sprain, is scheduled to make a rehab start Thursday in Lake Elsinore.
The Padres will figure their pitching situation out in the coming days.
Sunday, they just took advantage of Diamondbacks pitchers.
The damage in the second inning actually started with an error. Jake Cronenworth reached when his 102 mph grounder went off second baseman Ketel Marte’s glove. Walks by Luke Voit and Wil Myers loaded the bases.
Smith, who in an Aug. 6 appearance at Petco Park walked six of the 13 batters he faced, was clearly frustrated on the mound after issuing the walks. It got worse quickly, as his second pitch to Jurickson Profar was a slider that did not slide as much as glide to the middle of the strike zone. Profar sent it 418 feet and into the seats beyond left field.
It was Profar’s second home run, and to that point he was the only Padres player to homer this season.
Jorge Alfaro promptly joined him on that list, hitting another hanging slider 423 feet to left-center.
Smith was pulled after walking Ha-seong Kim, and Trent Grisham welcomed Corbin Martin with a single before Martin retired the next three batters.
The Padres got a run against Martin in the fourth on Kim’s triple and a one-out sacrifice fly by Austin Nola.
They started the fifth inning the same way they did the second, with Cronenworth reaching on an error (this one by shortstop Geraldo Perdomo) and Voit walking. This time, the Padres scored twice without another batter reaching bases. Both runners advanced on Myers’ fly ball to the right field wall. Profar followed with a strikeout, and with Alfaro at the plate Cronenworth and Voit scored on successive wild pitches to make it 8-0.
The Padres sent seven batters to the plate in the sixth inning and added their final two runs. Kim was hit by Humerto Castellanos at the start and moved to second on Nola’s one-out single. Manny Machado’s double drove in Kim and sent Nola to third. Nola scored on Cronenworth’s sacrifice fly.
All that made things pretty easy as far as unexpected bullpen days go.
The Padres’ bullpen was certainly rested after Yu Darvish went six innings in Thursday’s season opener, Sean Manaea went seven Friday and Musgrove followed with six. Among the 10 relievers on the active roster, three had not appeared in a game.
All three worked Sunday.
Crismatt, who led Padres relievers with 81 innings in 2021, threw his first three innings of the season and was followed by Austin Adams for one inning in his season debut.
Craig Stammen, who surrendered a walk-off home run Thursday, worked a perfect fifth. Robert Suarez, the pitcher who loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter before Stammen entered in the ninth inning Thursday, followed Stammen on Sunday and allowed a run (on Christian Walker’s homer) in his two innings.
Javy Guerra finished the game with his first two innings of the season, walking two but not allowing a run in the eighth before allowing a four runs in the ninth, including a three-run homer to Cooper Hummel.