The Giants visit the Padres in the most important series of the young season.
The San Francisco Giants are a good baseball team. Maybe they won’t be at this time next month. Perhaps they’ll be a mediocre or even a bad baseball team by the time the year is up.
But today, they are a good baseball team. They stand atop not just the NL West, but the entire National League. They have the second-best record in baseball, trailing only the Kansas City Royals who … OK, maybe that tidbit didn’t actually help my case. They’re tied for the third-best run differential in baseball, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
Usually when a team over-performs — such as the aforementioned Royals — you can point to their run differential as a knock on them. You can’t do that with the Giants. If you want to find a place to knock them down, there’s only one place to turn: to the schedule. The Giants have had a relatively easy schedule thus far, and while you can’t blame them for that, it’s the logical place to point to if you want to make the case that the Giants aren’t actually a 104-win team.
Enter the San Diego Padres. The Giants have played the Padres once this year, and it was the only time this season San Francisco has faced an unequivocally good baseball team. The Giants played well and won that series, though they were aided by a Fernando Tatis Jr. injury.
Now they head back to Petco Park for what should be a test. Perhaps the Giants banked wins against bad teams so they can tread water the rest of the way. Or perhaps they actually are just a good baseball team. We won’t know which is true at the end of this series, but we will get an important data point.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres
Where: Petco Park, San Diego, California
When: Friday (7:10 p.m.), Saturday (5:40 p.m.), and Sunday (1:10 p.m.)
National broadcasts: None
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 16-9, 1st in the NL West
Run differential: +24, 2nd in the NL
Postseason standing: 1st seed
Momentum: 1-game winning streak, 7-3 in their last 10 games
San Diego Padres
Record: 14-12, 3rd in the NL West
Run differential: +13, 3rd in the NL
Postseason standing: 1st Wild Card
Momentum: 1-game winning streak, 5-5 in their last 10 games
Season series: Giants lead 2-1
Three Giants to watch
Logan Webb: Webb probably isn’t long for the rotation, as he’ll be the odd man out whenever Johnny Cueto returns, which could be in the next week or two. And even though the Giants will likely have some more pitcher injuries or absences down the road, Tyler Beede could end up being the spot starter when the time arises.
After a dominant spring, Webb had a rough beginning to the season. But his latest start was far and away his best, as he pitched 7 scoreless innings while matching his career high with 8 strikeouts. But he wasn’t nearly as good as that line would suggest. He walked three, hit two, and threw just 54.2% of his pitches for strikes. Technically he was effectively wild, but watching him and weighing the quality of the opposition, it felt more like he was fortunately effective while being unsustainably wild. Against a very strong Padres lineup, Webb will need to bring the stuff we saw in Spring Training, not what we’ve seen in the regular season.
Mike Tauchman: The newest Giant debuted on Thursday with a three-hit game, matching his hit total from his entire season with the New York Yankees (in admittedly very limited playing time). It seems that he’ll be in the lineup every time that a righty is on the mound, and the Giants are facing two of them — two very good ones, at that.
Brandon Belt: The Giants need their bats to be at their best if they want to beat the murderer’s row that is Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. With the first and last of those two being righties, Belt represents one of the team’s best opportunities to let the ball fly in Southern California.
Three Padres to watch
Joe Musgrove: Musgrove made headlines earlier this year when he became the first player in Padres history to throw a no-hitter. It was pretty representative of the year he’s having, as the righty is sporting a 1.24 ERA and 2.44 FIP through 5 starts, with a sterling 41 strikeouts to just 5 walks in 29 innings. He’s very good, in other words.
Fernando Tatis Jr.: The last time the Giants saw Tatis, he was swinging through a pitch and falling to the ground in agony while holding his shoulder. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the Giants would see Tatis again this year, let alone this month. But it turns out the young superstar just aggravated a recurring injury, and only missed nine games before returning to action. He enters the series holding an eight-game hitting streak, during which time he’s hitting .419/.457/1.000.
Blake Snell: The Giants are hitting lefties much better than righties this year, with a .077 OPS difference. Snell is the only starting lefty that the Giants will see this series, and he’s one of the best in the game.