Two teams entering the season believing a delayed start and shortened regular season bolster their playoff hopes open the 2020 season Friday night at Petco Park in San Diego in what is being billed as a “Cowboy Shootout.”
Starting for the Arizona Diamondbacks will be veteran Madison Bumgarner — better known as “Mason Saunders” on the rodeo circuit.
Starting the opener for the Padres will be Chris Paddack, who is also known to teammates and Padres fans as “The Sheriff.” Paddack — who normally arrives at the ballpark on days he starts wearing a suit topped by a cowboy hat — will be the fourth-youngest Opening Day starter in Padres history at 24 years and six months
Yes, the Dodgers are the heavy favorites to win the National League West. But the Padres and Diamondbacks each believe they can make a run at the division title — or at least claim a wild-card berth. Their hopes were bolstered further on the eve of the opener when the postseason was expanded from five to eight teams in both leagues.
“We’re aiming for the big cake,” Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. said Thursday. “We’re aiming for everything. I think the boys are ready. We have a very good team. Why not? Let’s go win a World Series.”
The Padres have never won a World Series. They haven’t been to the NL playoffs since 2006. The Diamondbacks were in the playoffs as recently as 2017 and won the World Series in 2001.
Both teams share something else in common — deep pitching staffs.
And it starts with Bumgarner and Paddack.
Bumgarner needs no introduction. One of three key offseason free agent signings — the others being outfielders Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun — by the Diamondbacks, the 30-year-old left-hander had a 119-92 record with a 3.13 ERA in 11 seasons (286 starts) with the San Francisco Giants. He is 13-10 lifetime against the Padres with a 3.40 ERA, but only 5-7 with a 3.95 ERA in 17 career starts at Petco Park. He also owns three World Series rings and a World Series MVP.
But the season opener might not be the mismatch it seems.
Paddack was 9-7 in 26 starts as a rookie in 2019. The 6-foot-4 right-hander had a 3.33 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 140 2/3 innings. The Padres put him under strict restrictions as he was just three years removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Paddack was 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three 2019 starts against the Diamondbacks. He allowed only 12 hits with 20 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. In 11 home starts at Petco Park, Paddack was 6-3 with a 3.06 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.
Another thing Paddack and Bumgarner share, besides a Western motif, is an edge.
“I’m here to win,” Bumgarner explained of his intradivision jump from the Giants to the Diamondbacks.
“He looked like he’s ready to get to work,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said after Bumgarner threw 97 pitches in his last Summer Camp tune-up.
Paddack, too, is embracing the chance to be the Opening Day starter.
“I had chills running down my arms. I took a deep breath and really reflected on all my hard work paying off since surgery,” he said. “This is something that’s been a goal of mine ever since I picked up a baseball.”
–Field Level Media