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Series Preview #29: Diamondbacks @ Padres

The Diamondbacks make the hop to San Diego for a three game set before the All Star Break

Yu Darvish looks on as a play happens behind him, but out of frame, during a Padres game in Petco Park Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks are limping into the final series before the All Star Break. Last series, they lost two out of three to the Giants in spectacular fashion. They’ve lost six of their last 10, fallen to eleven games under .500, and are nearly equidistant from the first spot in the draft and the last spot in the playoffs. The bullpen has been bad. The offense has been missing. It’s rough right now

The Padres aren’t doing much better at the moment. They’ve lost seven out of their last ten, and lost four straight series since they split a two game set against the Diamondbacks back at the end of June. They went from keeping pace with the Dodgers to 9.5 games back and fallen to the second Wild Card Spot. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still well positioned going into the second half, but this is the time to face them if you’re a half way decent team.

Game 1 — 7/15, 6:40PM: Madison Bumgarner (5-8, 1.34 WHIP, 112 ERA+) vs. Yu Darvish (7-4, 0.98 WHIP, 113 ERA+)

Bumgarner is coming off his best start of the season thus far. The seven innings ties him for his longest start, and with only two runs given up, it was a more effective seven innings than the last time he did that back in May when he went seven and gave up four. He continues to outperform his FIP by a run, inching closer to being the first pitcher to ever have the FIP that he does with an ERA under four. If he can keep that up for the rest of the season, I don’t know if that would make me feel better about the rest of his contract or terrified. Could go either way. He’s historically struggled at Petco, however, so don’t bank on a follow up performance.

Yu Darvish’s second season with the Padres has gone better than the first, but still not living up to the expectations they had going in. In fact, they’re in a similar situation as the Diamondbacks with Bumgarner, though for significantly more money. Both pitchers started out with seasons below league average, and when they rebounded (season 2 for Darvish, 3 for Bumgarner) it was only to slightly above league average and not their career norms. Darvish is also coming off of a very good start, where he held the Giants, the same ones that just destroyed the Diamondbacks, to one run in seven innings.

Game 2 — 7/16, 5:40PM: Tyler Gilbert (0-3, 1.26 WHIP, 77 ERA+) vs. Sean Manaea (4-4, 1.21 WHIP, 94 ERA+)

This will be Gilbert’s third start since rejoining the rotation. On the fifth he was only able to last 3.2 innings, but kept the Giants to one run. His next start against the Rockies was a little better, scoreless in 5.2 innings. We’ve all seen what Gilbert can do on his absolute best day, so now the question becomes if he can continue improving back to that level.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Diamondbacks faced Manaea. He went six innings and allowed three runs, on the way to the Diamondbacks winning 7-6. He hasn’t had the best results this season, but he’s pretty consistently given the Padres six plus innings every start. His outing the last time he faced the Diamondbacks is pretty normal for him, so expect to see something similar in this game.

Game 3 — 7/17, 1:10PM: Merrill Kelly (8-5, 1.21 WHIP, 121 ERA+) vs. Mike Clevinger (2-2, 1.16 WHIP, 101 ERA+)

The Diamondbacks’ best pitcher takes the mound the the finale of the first half. His 18 starts currently lead the majors, and he’s running out career bests in almost every category, if you exclude the 2020 season where he was only able to start five games. Probably his biggest key to his success has been his absolute refusal to give up home runs, only allowing them at .5HR per 9 IP. He’s gone at least six innings in his last seven starts and has held opponents to a batting average of just .200 over that time.

The month of July has not been kind to Clevinger so far. He’s had two starts, and he’s given up four runs in both of them. That’s a pretty big departure from what he was doing for San Diego, considering he didn’t give up more than two in a start the entire month of June. Injuries have plagued him all season, with a knee injury delaying his return from Tommy John surgery to start the season, a strained triceps after three starts, and then just one start later, going on the COVID list.

Conclusion

I think the Diamondbacks are going to end the first half with a whimper instead of a bang. The only stadium that Bumgarner has multiple starts in that he’s been worse at than Petco is Coors, Gilbert has not been as good as he was last season so far this year, and Merrill Kelly is good, but he’s not “Shohei Ohtani forcing the Angels to win every time he pitches” good. I hate to say it, but I think the Diamondbacks lose two out of three to the Padres this time around.