As it does every year at this time, it feels a little surreal that the day we've been waiting six months for is finally here. I assure you, it is in fact very real, and the Padres genuinely are in Los Angeles as you read this, ready to take on the Dodgers in a four-game season-opening series. Well, I don't know if they're ready, but they're going to. I mean, this can't go worse than last year's historically atrocious Opening Series, can it? Can it?!
In addition to the possibility of scoring a run, or possibly even - gasp! - winning a game, there are a lot of other things for Padres fans to look forward to in this initial four-pack. At least one of the club's record three Rule 5 picks - reliever Miguel Diaz, catcher Luis Torrens, and shortstop Allen Cordoba - is liable to make his debut. Another debut of sorts to look out for is Christian Bethancourt as a pitcher-first utility player, as opposed to his old life as a catcher who provided comic - ahem - relief in two games last year. Those are the things that could happen; here are the things that will happen:
Jhoulys Chacin vs. Clayton Kershaw
This is kind of Clayton Kershaw's thing. Well, I guess there are a lot of things about him, but starting on Opening Day is definitely one of them. He's done the deed six times already. Jhoulys Chacin, on the other hand, will be making his second Opening Day start. It's quite the honor in most cases, but, well, these are the 2013 Rockies and 2017 Padres we're talking about; it's not exactly like he was beating out Zack Greinke for the nod. Let's hope, for the sake of his legacy, history overlooks the context.
Another thing Kershaw does is mow down opponents left and right, which is something you already knew. What he's done to the players he has faced on the current Padres roster is just disgusting. He has taken on three of them at least a dozen times, and I feel like a jerk for being the one to tell you how that has went. Erick Aybar is 4-25 (.160) but does have a pair of doubles. Wil Myers has one hit in 15 at-bats for a .067 batting average, and Yangervis Solarte has gone 2-12 (.167), but on the bright side his three walks double his OBP to a clean .333. Christian Bethancourt is hitless against Kershaw in three at-bats, as are Travis Jankowski and Austin Hedges in one each. The only player with anything even resembling success versus Kershaw, Hector Sanchez, is three for six with a double, but that might not come into play with Hedges getting the start behind the plate.
As you surely suspect, Chacin has done nowhere near as well against Dodgers hitters. Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig have hit .333 in 21 and 12 at-bats respectively, while Chase Utley has gone 5-11 (.455). Corey Seager has also hit .333, albeit in just six at-bats. Scott Van Slyke has also had success in a small sample size, going 3-5 (.600), while Justin Turner has hit a middle-of-the road .286 by way of two hits in seven tries. As far as positives go, that group has only one homer between them, by Gonzalez, and Chacin has done well against Yasmani Grandal (1-7, .143), Joc Pederson (0-4), and old friend Logan Forsythe (0-3).
Clayton Richard vs. Kenta Maeda
Every position player on the Dodgers has hit .333 or better against Richard, save for Chase Utley (1-5) and Scott Van Slyke (0-2). Adrian Gonzalez leads the way with a whopping .588 batting average thanks to 10 singles in 17 at-bats; he's followed by Franklin Gutierrez, who has eight hits - including a double and a homer - in 15 at-bats for a .533 mark. Yasiel Puig also has a double and a home run among his three hits in six at-bats. Justin Turner is 4-7 (.429), while Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager are 1-3, and Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson are each 1-2. In a fleeting grasp at optimism, I like to think that those numbers are irrelevant, since they're against the old Clayton Richard, not the new ground-ball-machine Clayton Richard who figured out how not to suck. LET A MAN DREAM, ALRIGHT?!
It's a different story when you look at how this group of Padres has fared against Maeda; it's a theater of small sample sizes, the vast majority of which are in Maeda's favor. Austin Hedges, Luis Sardinas, and Ryan Schimpf are 0-2, and Travis Jankowski is 0-3. Wil Myers is 2/11 with a triple for a blink-and-you'd-miss-it .182 average, and Yangervis Solarte also has two hits, in two fewer at-bats, for a .222 BA. On the positive side, Christian Bethancourt and Hunter Renfroe are both 1/2, with a home run to Renfroe's credit.
Trevor Cahill vs. Rich Hill
Cahill vs. Hill: Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? While that's pleasing to the ears, what's displeasing to the eyes is how Hill has held Padres batters in check. No one on the current roster has ever gotten a hit off him. Granted, that's only 11 at-bats by the five players who have faced him, but still. Cahill hasn't been as successful against his upcoming adversaries, with former Friars Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal getting the best results. Gonzalez has 11 hits - including two home runs - in 27 at-bats, for a .407 BA, while Grandal is 4 for 10. Cahill has held both Justin Turner (5 AB) and Chase Utley (10 AB) to .200 averages, while limiting Yasiel Puig to two hits in 12 at-bats. Utley does have a homer against him, as does Corey Seager in their lone faceoff.
Jered Weaver vs. Brandon McCarthy
Both Weaver and McCarthy are looking to bounce back from a rough couple of years, and both have a mixed bag of results versus the batters they're set to face. McCarthy has faced just six current Friars, and just three of them more than four times. Yangervis Solarte has done the most damage, going 4-8 with two doubles and a home run for an obscene 1.125 SLG. Erick Aybar also has four hits, one of which was a double, over the course of 13 at-bats (.308), while Wil Myers has been the anti-Aybar, collecting just one hit in 12 at-bats (.083). That one hit was a home run, so that's cause for encouragement. As for the others, Jankowski is 1-2 with a walk, Schimpf is 0-1 with a walk, and Sanchez is 1-4.
No one on the Dodgers roster has knocked Weaver around like Solarte has gotten to McCarthy, but a handful have had better-than-decent showings. Gonzalez's numbers are identical to Aybar's, right down to the double, and Forsythe is 5-16 (.308) with a double of his own and a home run to boot. Utley has also doubled against Weaver in the course of going 4-10. Franklin Gutierrez is just 7/31 (.226) but his six walks give him a .125 boost in OBP. Seager and Turner are both 1-4, with Seager's one leaving the yard. That's what Pederson's lone hit in three at-bats did as well. Puig and Van Slyke are both hitless, in three and two at-bats, respectively.
More details about each game, including starting lineups, will be included in our individual game previews on the day of each.
The art for this series preview, as well as for the upcoming series previews, was provided by Travis Peterson, proprietor of Punk Rock Paint. You can find him on Twitter or check out his website to see more of his work. Before you do, here's one more for the road: