Two veteran pitchers who have waited five days to make their first starts of the season go head to head Tuesday night when the San Diego Padres play the role of guests in the San Francisco Giants’ home opener.
Both teams are coming off relatively successful opening series. The Padres posted a 6-2 win on Monday afternoon to complete a 3-1 series win over the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks. The Giants earned a day off following consecutive wins over the host Los Angeles Dodgers that produced a split in their four-game set.
Right-hander Zach Davies (10-7, 3.55 ERA in 2019) is the scheduled starter for the Padres in the opener of the three-game series, with righty Jeff Samardzija (11-12, 3.52) slated to go for the Giants.
Acquired by the Padres last November from Milwaukee, the 27-year-old Davies has an opportunity in the series opener to be formally reunited with catcher Austin Hedges. They were batterymates as youth-league players in Orange County, near Los Angeles.
“He was skinny,” Hedges recalled of his buddy, “but he was a guy who threw hard and had a nasty curveball. It’s really impressive to always be really, really good — he didn’t have the physical tools of being 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds.”
At 6 feet and 180 pounds, Davies is one of the shortest starting pitchers in the major leagues. However, he’s had more than his fair share of success (43-32), even if his 2.05 ERA in four career starts against the Giants has resulted in nothing better than an 0-2 record.
Hedges started two of the Padres’ four games against the Diamondbacks, sharing the catching responsibility with Francisco Mejia. He’s still looking for his first hit of the season after an 0-for-8 start.
If he starts Tuesday, it would be against Samardzija, whom some had projected to be the Giants’ No. 2 starter behind Johnny Cueto this season.
However, new manager Gabe Kapler has kept everyone guessing with his rotation, to the point where he was accused of gamesmanship by Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts after twice waiting until close to game time before announcing his starter for that day’s game.
Kapler explained it to the media as, “There can be real value in not just waiting to announce starters, but in actually waiting to make the decision. Teams without traditional five-man rotations can gather data points on who pitches in the prior night’s game and how everyone looks while playing catch and going through their routines before making a final call.”
The ploy worked on Saturday and Sunday, when the Giants held down the National League favorites in 5-4 and 3-1 wins.
Samardzija faced the Padres four times last season, going 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA. He is 9-4 with a 3.58 ERA in 21 career appearances (19 starts) against San Diego in his career.
The 35-year-old’s batterymate in the game figures to be Giants newcomer Tyler Heineman, who was the club’s top offensive performer in Los Angeles, going 4-for-9 with two walks in three games.
Heineman, 29, appeared in five games for the Miami Marlins last season, going 3-for-11 with a homer and two RBIs in his first major league action. He earned a starting role in summer camp when former All-Star Buster Posey elected to opt out on the year and the Giants decided to keep former first-round pick Joey Bart off the season-opening roster.
–Field Level Media