Things were never supposed to be easy for the Padres. In a season that sees the small-market team take on the world - and more importantly, their NL West divisional rivals, the all-conquering LA Dodgers - the Pads have overcome some early setbacks.

Ahead of the three-game Dodgers series which starts Saturday, lead by Andrew Cunneen (@Cunneen92) we take a look at some early trends to identify where the Padres need to improve, where they’re likely to struggle and what’s in store over the next week for Cloudbet’s feature franchise against the reigning champs.

Let’s start with the obvious.

Joe Musgrove - San Diego’s now most-loved son - made history against the Rangers. It was 52-years in the coming, which meant the Padres were the last of the major league teams to throw a no-hitter.

He only signed with the Padres this year, and by his own admission feared his chances - and hopes - had dwindled as the club picked up Darvish and Snell, but make no mistake - the man whose parents had season tickets to Petco when he was a kid is here to compete, make the playoffs and harbour title aspirations.

History 52 years in the making

Source: San Diego Union Tribune

In a lot of ways, the Friars’ pitching, which leads the league in terms of ERA as a club with 1.80 at time of writing, has covered for cold bats that have plagued the Pads and made even their shutout games seem tense right to the very end.

Now, some may argue that, over time, the law of averages is enough to make that improve - but it also needs to be said that so far the Padres have only faced the Diamondbacks, Giants, Rangers and Pirates - four sides in an uphill battle to reach .500 by season’s end.

Against the Dodgers, they’ll be battling what is considered the most complete rotation in the game, as well as having their own rotation tested against the batting leaders in the majors (.284 at time of writing).

The Dodgers are coming off back-to-back sweeps, winning six straight.

Series opener: San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Money Line: Padres 2.39 Dodgers 1.63
Run Line: Padres +1.5 1.81 Dodgers -1.5 2.05
Totals: o8 Padres 1.91 u8 Dodgers 1.93

Make sure you check the live site for the latest odds.

While punting baseball based on the expectation of averages to balance out in the short term is folly, there are, however, a number of things you very much can anticipate.

Right now, there’s no clear diagnosis on Adrian Morejon, but he’ll certainly be out of the Dodgers series, and there’s been no amendment to the rotation. That means they’re going to have to find a plan for the opener.

Bullpen comes into play

Which means either a bullpen day, which would cripple the Friars’ relief arms for the rest of the series; taking a chance on Ryan Weathers, who has yet to pitch extensively in the majors against top opposition; or promoting Mackenzie Gore, who has yet to pitch in the majors full-stop.

What does this translate to for the Padres? Well, it means there’ll be plenty of runs, if we’re expecting the obvious. A pen day to open the series wouldn't hurt in the opener as it's been the best in the majors so they could easily carry the Friars a good distance into that particular game - but it’s the short-rest that they’ll want their relievers to play on in order to try and take the series that is a concern.

Given how disciplined the Dodgers have been against the Padres’ pen in the past - and a large chunk of that returns for 2021 - they’ll have to rely heavily on new starters, two of whom are due to take the mound against LA - aces Darvish and Snell. The problem is, Darvish is well-known to the opposition having spent time there, and the latter’s arsenal possesses a lot of pitches that have been Dodger-friendly to this point in the season.

So it seems Jayce Tingler has gone with Ryan Weathers to start things off.

The injury to Fernando Tatis has been alarming and obviously poses long-term questions, but they may even be exaggerated for this series as it’s his potential first game back. Latest reports say he’s expected to come off the injured list Friday.

Hypothetically, if the Padres continue to lack inspiration in the fielding department (currently leading the majors with 10), then Tatis’ return - complete with a worse shoulder than when he committed five errors to begin the season - means the Friars could be in serious trouble for even routine grounders.

If you can’t get simple outs, then you’re going to be in real trouble against a team that’s biggest weakness is ground balls early in the count.

If you’re betting this, bet the Dodgers to win the series, and probably to sweep it.

The overs on the run total lines should be tempting too, particularly as there won’t be a rational reason for traders to go too high on that number given the Padres’ barren spell with the bat doesn’t appear to be ending, save Wil Myers. The Over for the opener is at 8.

The Dodgers in a rout isn’t the push the Padres faithful want to hear early in the year, but it’s worth pointing out that the return to a 162-game series should mean that this series can be clawed back, and the bumps in the road - to Tatis, Morejon and Kim’s acclimatisation period - won’t hamper them come October.

For now, that's a pill that’s more bitter to swallow than fatal.

The National League West winner market has the Dodgers as favourites, at odds of 1.20, with the Padres next at 3.85.

In the National League winner market, the order is the same, with the Dodgers at 2.60 and the Padres at 5.14, followed by the Mets at 5.65, the Braves at 7.42 and the Cards at 13.3.

If you're so inclined, please read our pre-seasons previews of the National League and the American League - as well as our article on why we're following the Padres this year.

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