When the Padres defeated the visiting Houston Astros 4-3 Friday night at Petco Park in San Diego, the identity of the “hottest” team in the major leagues might have changed.
The Astros had won eight straight games before the loss. And now the Padres have won five in a row while climbing back into second place in the National League West.
“These two teams are overcoming some problems and playing good baseball,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
For the Astros, the problem is injuries. They were without four regulars Friday night, although center fielder Michael Brantley (calf) is eligible to come off the injured list Saturday before the Padres and Astros meet in the second game of a three-game series.
For the Padres, the problem is the bullpen, although six relievers combined to work seven innings and allow only two runs Friday night. However, what they have done with their bullpen through their five-game winning streak is probably not sustainable. They have used an average of 4.8 relievers a game during the streak.
And their best relievers are both on the injured list. Kirby Yates, who led the majors in saves last season with 41, might not pitch again in 2020 due to bones spurs in the back of his elbow. And the Padres’ most effective reliever, left-hander Drew Pomeranz (0.00 ERA, four saves) went on the injured list Friday with shoulder pain.
Not only have the Padres been using a bullpen with a 5.86 earned run average to the max, Jayce Tingler was looking to Sunday possibly being a bullpen start in the series finale against Zack Greinke.
“What we do Sunday probably depends on how far Zach Davies goes Saturday night,” Tingler said after Friday night’s 4-3 win. “The bullpen was phenomenal tonight.”
Saturday’s matchup features right-handers Davies (3-2, 3.25 ERA) of the Padres against Houston’s Brandon Bielak (3-0, 1.69 ERA).
The emergence of the rookie Bielak, 24, has softened for loss of ace Justin Verlander for the Astros. The 6-foot-2 Bielak has made five appearances (three starts) for the Astros. He has given up five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 11 walks with 15 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. He has a 1.13 WHIP.
Bielak, who played at Notre Dame, was the Astros’ 11th-round pick in the 2017 draft.
Naturally, this will be the first time Bielak has faced the Padres. But, conversely, this will be the first time the veteran Davies has faced the Astros.
In his first five 2020 starts, Davies has gone seven innings once. Overall, he has allowed 10 earned runs on 19 hits and five walks with 24 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. Davies has a 0.87 WHIP. But he has yet to reach 90 pitches in a game, which could work against him going deep into tonight’s game.
Meanwhile, rookie manager Tingler has been impressed by the resilience of his Padres.
“Tonight, we played a good backyard baseball game,” Tingler said. “Some of it, we drew up in the dirt as we played. I don’t know how to explain it. We have a group of men who are playing with the enthusiasm of neighborhood boys.”
–Field Level Media