When was the last time the San Diego Padres had an ace? Good question!
The answer: Maybe it's Chris Paddack, that other rookie on the Padres.
The Padres beat the Seattle Mariners 1-0 in a superb pitching duel between Chris Paddack and Felix Hernandez in a game that lasted a crisp 2 hours, 5 minutes. The teams combined for just 197 pitches, six hits and two walks, the first nine-inning game with fewer than 200 pitches since the Mariners and Twins on Sept. 24, 2016.
While it was fun to see Felix turn back the clock, Paddack stole the show in earning his first major league victory in his fifth start. He allowed one hit, one walk and one hit batter over seven innings -- and those all came in the first inning, which he escaped when he struck out Dee Gordon. He fanned nine and showed a wide variety of nasty stuff, including a rapidly improving curveball to go with his fastball and changeup:
In fact, he had the Mariners so Pad-locked all game long that Dan Vogelbach struck out on this fastball:
Chris Paddack somehow got Daniel Vogelbach to swing at this pitch for strike three.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 24, 2019
At 4.88 ft, it's the highest strikeout pitch of the 2019 season. pic.twitter.com/YxwUeZxFi4
Paddack's numbers through 27 innings and his rank among the 94 qualified starters:
ERA: 1.67 (7th)
Strikeout rate: 30.3 percent (15th)
Walk rate: 8.1 percent (55th)
Average allowed: .112 (1st)
wOBA allowed: .190 (1st)
Swinging strike rate: 13.1 percent (30th)
Swing-and-miss rate: 24.9 percent (46th)
In-zone rate: 55.2 percent (4th)
Average exit velocity: 85.0 (3rd)
Yes, Paddack is riding some BABIP fortune, but note that he's also been among the best at allowing soft contact. That he's a strike-throwing machine is no surprise, either, given his insane 120-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year in the minors. A key to his early success has been the development of that curveball, a pitch he rarely deployed in the minors. He's throwing it 10 percent of the time, giving him that elusive third pitch.
Back to the last Padres ace. The last Padres starting pitcher to make an All-Star team was Drew Pomeranz in 2016, but he didn't even last the season as he was traded to the Red Sox. Tyson Ross was pretty good in 2014 and 2015, but his peak WAR was 3.5, short of ace standards. The last Padres pitcher with back-to-back 3.0 WAR seasons was Jake Peavy in 2007 and 2008. He had 6.2 WAR in his Cy Young season of 2007, the last time a Padres pitcher topped 4 WAR. So, not surprisingly, the last ace for the Padres was Peavy. It's been a long time.
(In fact, the Padres have had just 10 3-WAR seasons by a starting pitcher since 2000. By comparison the Dodgers have had 34, the Diamondbacks 25 and the Giants 23.)
It's five starts, early in a long season. Paddack threw just 90 innings in the minors last year after coming back from Tommy John surgery, so durability and an innings limit will have to be dealt with. So far, however, it looks like Paddack might give teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. a run for Rookie of the Year honors.
Rhys' revenge On Monday and Tuesday, the Phillies played two listless, terrible games against the Mets. On Monday, Jake Arrieta called out Bryce Harper for getting ejected from the game. Tuesday's game ended with Mets pitcher Jacob Rhame throwing a fastball over the head of Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning of a blowout game, an incident that led to an umpire warning and some verbal jousting on the field as the benches emptied. After the game, the Phillies accused Rhame of throwing at Hoskins (perhaps in retaliation for two Mets getting hit on Monday).
So there we were in the ninth inning with the Phillies up 4-0, Harper on first base, Rhame on the mound and Hoskins up. This happened:
Hoskins milked the moment -- and I can't say I blame him. His home run trot lasted an Ortiz-esque 34.2 seconds, the first 30-second trot in the majors this season and longer than last year's longest trot, Jesus Aguilar's 32.5-second jog around the bases. David Adler of MLB.com tweeted that it was the longest trot in Statcast history (not counting the time Justin Upton missed first base!).
It's probably too much to say this is exactly the kind of thing the Phillies needed, but, well, it sure doesn't hurt:
Rhys Hoskins after the Phillies came to life on Wednesday with a 6-0 win over the Mets: "A couple of guys said the phrase, 'Don't poke the sleeping bear.' The last couple of innings were a pretty good indication that may have happened."— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) April 25, 2019
The best part of all this is it sets up some bad blood between the teams the rest of the season. Yes, the National League East just managed to get a little more interesting. And, yes, I'm setting my mobile alerts to "Buzz me loudly the next time Rhys Hoskins is up against Jacob Rhame."
Cardinals sweep Brewers: Like Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright had a little "turn back the clock" outing as well, giving up one run over six innings in a 5-2 win over Milwaukee and riding home runs from Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina. The game came down to the top of ninth with Christian Yelich up and the bases loaded. He couldn't hold up on Jordan Hicks' changeup in the dirt (and, yes, it's unfair that Hicks has a changeup):
Earlier in the day, the Brewers announced they had signed Gio Gonzalez after he opted out of his deal with the Yankees. It certainly makes sense that the Brewers would sign him, especially since he helped them down the stretch last season: Milwaukee's rotation ERA is an ugly 5.84, 26th in the majors.
In addition to concern about the rotation, I'm not completely sold on the Brewers' offense, which ranks middle of the pack -- but that's with the help of Yelich's ridiculous start. Jesus Aguilar is hitting .132 without a home run and Eric Thames drew the start at first base on Wednesday. They're not getting much yet from Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw or Orlando Arcia, and Shaw is the only one of those three who I'm sure will improve. When they have hit, it's been at home. (Again, a lot of that is Yelich, as all 13 of his home runs have come at home.) But they're hitting just .211 on the road.
Anyway, nice sweep for the Cardinals, who suddenly have the best record and best run differential in the National League. The Brewers and Cardinals are probably sick of playing each other: They've already played 10 times (they split) and won't meet again until Aug. 19.
Wild one at Wrigley: Walker Buehler and the Dodgers led the Cubs 3-0 with two outs in the sixth inning, but it had been a strange outing. His only strikeout had been earlier that frame against pinch hitter Mark Zagunis. He had kept the runs off the board, but this was hardly the dominant Buehler we now expect to show up every outing. With two outs, he walked Anthony Rizzo to put two runners on. His 96th and final pitch was an 0-2 slider to Javier Baez, and look how badly he missed with his location:
I'm not a fan of intentional walks, but that one from Dave Roberts was understandable since it set up a left-left matchup and Contreras has been hot all season. Of course, so has Heyward, and his production -- he's at .333/.450/.587 with five home runs -- has been one the best storylines in April, given all the crap he's taken from Cubs fans the past two seasons.
The Dodgers made it interesting with Alex Verdugo's three-run homer off Steve Cishek in the eighth, and if anything, this game served as a reminder that both the Dodgers and Cubs continue to have bullpen issues:
Dodgers: 4.96 ERA
Cubs: 5.05 ERA
Mets: 5.40 ERA
Nationals: 7.07 ERA
(I threw in the Mets and Nationals as a reminder that bullpens are a big problem across the league.)
Here comes Vladdy! Finally! The Blue Jays announced Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make his major league debut at home on Friday. Here's the proud papa:
My son! The country that saw you as a child will now see you turn into a big one.— Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) April 25, 2019
Working hard everything can be done. I'm proud of you!
Love you! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/WJyLBVKWoR
What to expect from Guerrero? I think we'll see more of his high average than big power numbers -- say a .300 average with 18 home runs the rest of the way -- but I'm selling short his ability to rake over the fence from the get-go. He hit three home runs in eight Triple-A games, including one on Wednesday. Here's Tommy Rancel's ESPN+ report on Junior.
Check back later this week for a roundtable discussion on Guerrero's immediate impact for the Blue Jays.