If I were to tell you before the season that Yu Darvish’s biggest start of the season would be in a mid-September afternoon game against the St. Louis Cardinals, you’d probably laugh because you would’ve assumed that San Diego would either be fighting for the division or they’d have the first wild card spot essentially locked up. However, that’s not the case because of how many things have gone wrong for the Padres rotation this season.
Tonight is indeed Darvish’s biggest start of the season for a couple of reasons. First, every Padres starter’s biggest start of the year is their next one (especially considering that the Friars are fighting for a playoff spot). And secondly, it feels like the Padres simply need to win this game.
Unfortunately, Darvish is coming off of his worst start of the season against the San Francisco Giants this week. He only went four innings and gave up eight runs on four home runs. Fast forward five days and Darvish is looking at another tough opposing lineup he’ll have to pitch against tonight.
The Padres offense hasn’t been able to score enough runs recently if you take out Wednesday and Thursday’s games in San Francisco. They will be facing Adam Wainwright, who owns a tremendous 2.88 ERA at the age of 40, so I wouldn’t expect the offense to turn it around in a big way all of a sudden tonight. That likely means that Darvish can’t afford to give up more than three runs because then he’d be putting St. Louis in the driver’s seat to win the series.
One reason why it feels like tonight is a must-win game is because Jake Arrieta is starting tomorrow in the series finale. Arrieta owns an ERA north of 7 and unfortunately is probably due for a bumpy outing after allowing three runs in each of his last two starts.
If Darvish doesn’t have a good start, odds are that sets up San Diego for a loss tonight, which could very well lead to the Padres being swept. If this scenario were to occur, they’d be 3.5 games back of the second wild card spot. That might be too big of a hole to climb out of with just over two weeks to go, especially when they are playing the Dodgers, Giants, and Braves the rest of the way (who are all playoff teams).
The good news, though, is Darvish is familiar with the Cardinals lineup because he spent three seasons with St. Louis’ NL Central rival—the Chicago Cubs.