New Padres manager knows Diamondbacks well
The Arizona Diamondbacks are not where they want to be, but they are making strides.
By taking two of three games from the National League Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals earlier in the week, the Diamondbacks assured their third straight winning season under general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo.
New San Diego Padres manager Rod Barajas can relate.
Barajas, who grew up in the Arizona organization, played with the Diamondbacks in their only longer run of success, when they had five straight winning seasons from 1999-2003.
Barajas will return to Arizona for a three-game weekend series that concludes the regular season, his first time back since being promoted to replace Andy Green when these teams met in San Diego last weekend. The Padres (70-89 overall) are 1-5 since the change.
Arizona right-hander Taylor Clarke (5-5, 5.40 ERA) will face San Diego left-hander Eric Lauer (8-10, 4.53 ERA) in the opener Friday.
The Diamondbacks (82-77) have equaled their victory total from last season despite having to replace key pieces Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock and dealing Zack Greinke at the trade deadline. They won 93 games in 2017 and beat Colorado in the NL wild-card game before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
“I’m not going to weigh this year’s season against last year’s season,” Lovullo said.
“I’ll be proud to these guys. This group could feel at the end of the day that we accomplished something that nobody thought we could, and that’s what sports is all about. We want to go out and earn everything and shock everybody and do the best we can to win a world championship. I think we are on our way there … we are still continuing to climb that mountain.”
The Diamondbacks have won five of the last six games against San Diego to even the season series at 8-8, although they have a decided 80-57 edge in runs scored. The Padres have lost 12 of 14 after being swept by the Dodgers in a series that ended Thursday afternoon.
The Padres have received a strong defensive season from catcher Austin Hedges, who has “saved” 23 runs more than the average catcher, according to baseball-reference.com. Hedges, hitting .179 with 11 homers, told the team’s website that he believes he should win the NL Gold Glove award, using Arizona 2018 Gold Glove-winning shortstop Nick Ahmed as an example.
“Nowadays, if you’re a good defender, people realize it,” Hedges told the website. “Nick Ahmed last year didn’t have a great year on offense, but people realized he was the best shortstop in the National League and he deserved the Gold Glove. They gave it to him.”
Clarke will make his 15th start, his first since Aug. 17 after seven relief appearances. In his only previous appearance against San Diego, he beat the Padres on Sept. 21, giving up one run in three innings behind Luke Weaver in a 4-2 victory.
Lauer, who has thrown 145 innings in his first full season in the rotation, is no stranger to Arizona. He will have missed the Diamondbacks only once in their six series this season, and he is 1-3 with a 3.91 ERA against them in four previous starts. In six career starts against the D-backs, he is 2-3 with a 2.88 ERA.
Lauer has made quality starts in each of his last two appearances against Arizona, and he gave up two hits and two runs in six innings of a 9-0 loss on Sept. 20, tying a career high with nine strikeouts. He is 4-6 with a 6.27 ERA away from Petco Park this season.
–Field Level Media