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Padres series preview: Home opener vs. Giants

Sure, baseball was back, but now it’s back to Petco Park!

Travis Peterson

After dropping three of four games to the Dodgers in their first series of the year, the Padres head back to San Diego for their Home Opener. They’ll face their cellar-mates, the Giants, who are expected to battle Los Angeles for the division title. But then again, maybe this young Padres team can gel and make a run for it-- hahahahahaha, I’m sorry; I really tried to keep a straight face there.

Game 1

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Perdomo vs Matt Cain

Friday, April 7; 3:40 pm

This is the first start of the season for both Perdomo and Cain... Okay, I need to stop for a second and break tone. I just Googled Matt Cain so I could get to his Baseball Reference page, and the Wiki sidebar says his nicknames are “The Horse”, “Big Daddy”, and “Big Sugar”. Not only have I never heard any of those used in reference to him, they are all terrible nicknames. Maybe I had heard them and just blocked them from my consciousness because they are all so godawful. Anyway, what was I saying? Ah, yes *clears throat *

Cain, who looks like the villain from a 1980s high school comedy, is a three-time All-Star who has historically pitched well against the Padres, but he has been absolute butt the past four years. Of course, he has been injured a lot too, but either way, the results have been... well, the kind of results that make you end up the fifth starter. His ERA has been over 4.00 all four seasons, and over 5.60 the past two. Yeesh. In his 12 seasons he has started 35 games and made one relief appearance against the Padres, putting up a 3.13 ERA in 221.1 innings. That has earned him an 8-14 record, which tells you all you need to know about the relevance of a pitcher’s W/L record. He has been even better at Petco Park, with a 2.28 ERA in 114.1 innings over 18 games. I’m not even going to note what his (extremely losing) record is because it’s pointless, and the only reason I brought it up before was to mock the whole concept.

Perdomo was a Rule-fiver last year who didn’t turn the corner until the cup of season had been half-emptied, so it doesn’t quite seem fair or representative of who he is now to spit numbers at you, but what else am I going to do? With that in mind, take this with an entire five-pound bag of rock salt. Last year he made two starts and two appearances out of the ‘pen against San Francisco, accruing a 4.30 ERA in 14.1 innings. That’s better than his overall ERA, so toss out what I just said. This means something. Clearly he has the Giants’ number and they are in great peril. Aw, man, he’s gonna win this game and screw up the tank, isn’t he?

Game 2

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jhoulys Chacin vs Madison Bumgarner

Saturday, April 8; 5:40 pm

This is nearly as ridiculously mismatched as Chacin’s first start was. On Opening Day he was pitted against Clayton Kershaw, not that it mattered since the Dodgers could have put current-day Tom Candiotti out there and he probably would have outdueled Chacin. The guy needs to figure some things out if we can expect to get anything for him at the trade deadline. That’s why he’s here, right? I know, I know, somebody has to go out there every fifth day and soak up some innings, but the back-burner best-case-scenario was to be able to Pomeranz (that’s a verb now) him, and his day-one bed soiling certainly makes that seem like a pipe dream - as in the kind of daydream you have after hitting a crackpipe.

Throwing out career statistics seems so irrelevant at times because the veterans the Padres have are completely different players than they were when the bulk of their stats were accumulated. Aside from Clayton Richard, whose post-surgery body of work with a new arm angle has been a pleasant surprise, this is not for the best. That said, Chacin has pitched in 15 games against the Giants, starting all but one of those, and has a respectable 3.47 ERA in 85.2 innings. That, as you likely suspected, is far better than his overall mark. He has a similar 3.60 ERA in his new home ballpark, but you have to take into account that it’s padded by him having the luxury of facing Padres hitters back then.

Bumgarner has been the anti-Cain, or the new Cain, depending on how you want to look at it, the past four seasons. He’s had an ERA under 3.00 and finished in the top-10 of NL Cy Young Award voting each year. Oh, and have you heard? He can hit. It’s disconcerting that some petulant, unlikable red-ass is so good. Why can’t every star be like Tony? At any rate, hotheaded jerk or not, Angry Hobo has pitched more innings against the Padres than he has against any other team, and has a 3.41 ERA to show for those 174 frames. On the bright side, that’s worse than his all-encompassing 2.99 ERA; plus, his last start against the Padres was a joy to watch as he blew a 6-0 lead, giving up Hunter Renfroe’s first homer along with one to the ever-sprinting Adam Rosales in the process. It was sheer bliss when all those orange-clad interlopers surrounding us at Petco Park finally shut up for a few minutes.

Game 3

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Richard vs Johnny Cueto

Sunday, April 8; 1:40 pm

If the season ended tomorrow, there would have to be some drastic reason for that, so they probably wouldn’t be voting on awards. But, in the absurd scenario that that happened and they did, Clayton Richard would be the Cy Young Award winner. In his small sample size of one game, he was stellar. A grounder here, a grounder there, a grounder everywhere. All those grounders added up to eight scoreless innings, and now we see if he can do it again. Cueto was not as successful in his first start, giving up four earned runs and two homers in five innings.

Cueto has pitched against the Padres a dozen times, and in those 85 innings he has a 2.96 ERA and 3.91 strikeouts for every walk. That is what expert analysts like to refer to as... good. Oddly, his ERA in four games at Petco is 3.38; I say it’s odd since the majority of his starts against them were at his old home of Cincinnati’s Great American Smallpark. Baseball is weird sometimes, but then again sometimes you’ve just got to throw your shoulders up and take the cop-out of saying “Small sample size, dude.”

Before I get into Clayton Richard’s history against the Giants, may I take a moment to pat myself on the back? Of course I can. Who’s going to stop me? You? I didn’t think so. Here’s what I had to say in the last series preview:

[...]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?!

Aw yeah, that’s the good stuff there. Just enough self-esteem fuel to get me through until tomorrow. Back to the task at hand, Clayton Richard has done better than usual when facing the Giants. His 3.87 ERA in 17 games will hopefully be a smaller number after the eighteenth. You know what? I’m going to call it. It will be lower.

More details about each game, including starting lineups, will be included in our individual game previews on the day of each.

The cover art for this and all 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.