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Series Preview #7 : Diamondbacks vs Padres

Will these teams split another series?

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Tatis Jr. arrives in the Majors safe and healthy.
Tatis Jr. arrives in the Majors safe and healthy.
Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

This week is a great time for the Diamondbacks to play the Padres. Prior to Wednesday’s game against the Braves, the Padres lost 6 of their last 7 games. Help will arrive soon with two players added to the active roster: Fernando Tatis Jr. and Joe Musgrove.

Will Fernando Tatis Jr. make an impact?

His return is highly anticipated. Expectations for his contribution with the bat are off the chart. In 2021, his barrels-per-PA were second highest in the Majors, while his hard-hit-percent was the fifth highest in the Majors. This season in AAA, his high exit velocities were impressive, including a single at 115.4 MPH and a home run at 115.1 MPH.

“I’ll be heading to the minor leagues to keep my timing on track and just to stay ready. So, when the time comes, and they release my chains, I’ll be out there at full speed.” — Fernando Tatis Jr.

On the other hand, he has not played in the Majors since 2021. Will he need a few games to adjust to the highest level of pitching? Has his bat slowed down since 2021? There is plenty of room for disappointment. A temporary adjustment period would be good news for the Diamondbacks.

He will play right field, where his speed and arm strength should be assets. However, he has relatively little experience in the outfield. Fans at the Gaslamp Ball website (SB Nation) have commented on his fielding mistakes in AAA.

He is supplementing his fielding experience by practicing fielding balls launched from a pitching machine. That practice sounds good except when you realize these balls are greatly different from gameday balls. Batters send balls to right field with a great variety of spins and angles, which greatly impact where and when the ball will land in the outfield. Those variations cannot be replicated by any pitching machine that I know about.

Another factor is every ballpark requires outfielders to face different challenges (such as light placement for night games, how the ball plays in the corner, and the turf), which, even with speed and arm strength, require experience to master. He does not have that experience, so at least a few mistakes can be expected. Owen McGrattan wrote about the importance of making routine plays for Fernando Tatis Jr.. If he falls short in that area, instead of a few mistakes, many mistakes can be expected.

“I’m looking forward to being the best I can possibly be out there. Especially in right field because you get different spins all the time (especially from right-handed hitters). But I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.” — Fernando Tatis Jr.

Joe Musgrove is likely to return in the third game of the series.

As you know, Joe Musgrove dropped a weight on his foot, breaking his toe. Except for that injury, he might have been the opening day starter for the Padres. Last season, of the 39 pitchers with at least 700 batters faced, Joe Musgrove had the ninth best expected weighted on-base-percentage (xwOBA). Diamondback Zac Gallen had the eighth best xwOBA. Rankings as of 14 April per Baseball Savant.

During a rehab start, he landed awkwardly on his right shoulder. About 10 April, he received a cortisone shot in that shoulder. Expectations for his return are almost as high as Fernando Tatis Jr..

Last season, his 2.93 ERA was a career best for Joe Musgrove. This season, other Padres starters with great ERAs include Ryan Weathers (2.70), Seth Lugo (1.38), and Michael Wacha (3.0), with 2 starts each.

Torey Lovullo rocks.

Torey Lovullo was steely eyed in the ninth inning against the Cardinals. Because he walked onto the field more than once with questions, the umpires paused the game for a rules check. That’s a rare event. Torey Lovullo is fighting for the Diamondbacks, and I like that!

“I like a level playing field. I like the rules to be the rules.” — Torey Lovullo, post game on 18 April 2023

The Pitching Matchups.

Thursday 6:40 PM Arizona Time, Michael Wacha (6.06 ERA) vs Ryne Nelson (3.71 ERA)

Michael Wacha’s latest start was against the Brewers. He allowed 7 earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched. He allowed homers by Christian Yelich (LF) and Rowdy Tellez (1B). Perhaps Wacha will provide Diamondback batters a chance to show their talent.

Ryne Nelson won the competition for the fifth starter spot. His latest start was his best so far with 1 earned run allowed in 6 innings pitched.

The Padres are favored (53%) to win this game per My view differs - this game is a tossup.

Friday 6:40 PM Arizona Time, Seth Lugo (2.70 ERA) vs Zac Gallen (3.33 ERA)

Seth Lugo’s latest start was his worst with 3 earned runs allowed in 3.2 innings pitched. Each game this season, his pitched per batter faced has gone up (from 3.72 to 4.36 to 4.65 pitchers per batter faced).

In Zac Gallen’s last two starts (against the Brewers and the Marlins), he pitched 13.2 innings while allowing zero runs, 5 hits, 1 walk, and 18 strikeouts.

In games through 16 April, Zac Gallen’s season total of 28 strikeouts ranked first in the NL. On 17 April, Logan Webb pulled even. Likely this game will break the tie in Gallen’s favor. — Makakilo

In his last start against the Padres, Gallen allowed 4 runs. I’d be surprised in the Padres could repeat that feat.

Gallen needs to pitch cautiously to star Juan Soto, who is the only Padres’ batter to hit a homer against Gallen in each of last season and this season.

The Diamondbacks are favored (56%) to win this game per

Saturday 5:10 PM Arizona Time, Joe Musgrove vs Merrill Kelly (2.53 ERA)

Musgrove made what could be his final rehab start in single-A Lake Elsinore. He faced 21 batters while allowing 6 hits, zero walks, and 8 strikeouts. I’m not sure whether those numbers say whether he’s ready for his first game of the season.

Merrill Kelly’s last start was his best of the season, with 1 earned run in 6 innings pitched. This game could feature two great starters competing.

My confidence is low that Musgrove will pitch to his capability in his first start of the season. Merrill Kelly is at his season best. Therefore, my view is that this game is advantage Diamondbacks.

Sunday, 1:10 PM Arizona Time, Yu Darvish (3.44 ERA) and Drey Jameson (2.25 ERA)

In his latest start, Yu Darvish pitched well against the Brewers (1 earned run in 7 innings). Before this game, the manager of the Brewers said his intention was to score runs early. It did not happen in the first inning. This season, no team has scored runs against him in the first inning.

“Scoring early against San Diego has been big because they have the tools to score a lot of runs. Fast starts make things easier.” — Craig Counsell, Brewers Manager & former Diamondback

The Padres (and Yu Darvish) lost that game by a score of 0 to 1. The Padres could not score a run, even after they loaded the bases in the ninth inning. They left a total of eight men on base.

In Drey Jameson’s latest start, none of his 4 walked batters scored. Although that’s a lot pf walks, and although he only pitched 3.2 innings, Drey Jameson made his pitches when he needed to to get out of trouble. Although he allowed 2 earned runs, the game felt like he pitched very well. One of the two earned runs was a 1-run homer by former Diamondback Paul Goldschmidt.

The Padres are favored (58%) to win this game per