The San Diego Padres always felt like the other side of the world to me. The 1977 Randy Jones Topps Card is the oldest memory that comes to mind; the one with the blue N.L. All Star banner across the bottom. Why was Mr. Jone not wearing a cap in the photo? How is that he looks like Willy Wonka? Well, he won 22 games and pitched 315 innings in 1976 so I concluded he could do whatever he wanted.
The Padres used to wear chocolate and banana cupcake uniforms; disgusting to many, but a novelty to others, including me. These days, their jerseys are kind of plain except for the camouflaged army variety.
Gary Coleman starred in a Walt Disney-ish movie about the Padres. Ray Kroc owned more than McDonalds. He also owned the Padres from 1974-1984. Kurt Bevacqua played on a lot of teams including the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres. His 1976 baseball card was one of the first cards I remember having nothing to do with baseball. He was the bubble gum blowing champion and it inspired us all to invest in big league chew pouches. The stale gum in packs was not enough.
Bevacqua signed with the Padres in 1982, same year that Tony Gwynn launched his amazing career in San Diego. Eric Show was on that 1982 Padres team as well. Show was a vocal John Birch Society member and that got me thinking what the hell is a Padre anyway? A Friar, as in Franciscan Friars who founded San Diego in 1789. It was and still is the only religious mascot in baseball.
The Padres are obscure, even in California. No Padre has ever thrown a not hitter dating back to 1969 when the National League invited the Friars and Montreal Expos into their exclusive club. So it’s always significant when the Padres play because it might happen. Every other team in baseball; including the more recent expansion teams; Colorado, Arizona and Florida have at least one no hitter.
The Padres opened a three game series with the Brewers Monday night in Milwaukee and Andrew Kashner was on the mound.
Cashner seemed like a perfect fit to face the Brewers considering the Brewers were still fresh from facing Gerrit Cole’s 95 mph fastball on Sunday. Cashner is a similar type of pitcher. And by the third inning, the theory held true. The Brewers teed off. Cashner hadn’t given up more than 2 runs in any start this year; 4 games, 28 innings, 19 hits allowed, and only 4 earned runs. He was just as good last season, but not during Monday night’s third inning.
Brewer’s Pitcher Wily Peralta greeted him with a double and Scooter Gennett followed with a triple. Ryan Braun hit a sac fly. Aramis Ramirez launched a solo home run to dead center. Brewers with a 3-0 lead.
But Peralta let the Padres back in the game the following inning and it wasn’t cheap. Padre batters made solid contact, scoring two runs. Brewers score again in the 5th. Padres get another run in the 7th. Time for the Brewers bullpen and once again they shut it down. This is probably the biggest surprise thus far this season. The bullpen of the Brewers has been lights out.
The game was won in the seventh inning as it often is. Padres had runners on second and third with one out, trailing 4-3. Enter lefty Will Smith. It’s become very clear to Brewer fans why the team traded one of the most under rated lead off hitters in baseball -Norichika Aoki for an unknown southpaw-Will Smith. He worked out of the jam, getting a pop out and a K on his bread and butter slider.
K-rod earned his 4th save in as many days. Brewers win 4-3.
Other than the bullpen there aren’t that many surprises to the Brewers 15-5 start; feels more like objectives being reached early on anyway.
Scooter Gennett played second base last year, replacing Rickie Weeks who is still locked up in a contract and not hitting his own weight. Weeks has never been an A defender. It’s a bit sad because Weeks has meant a lot to the franchise, but Gennett is a Wally Backman nose to the grindstone battler. Great range, good throwing arms and .300 hitter and he chews as much gum as Clint Hurdle.
There was no first baseman on this team. Enter cast-off’s Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay on the cheap. The Reynolds home runs are predictable. It’s his defense that’s so impressive.
Aramis Ramirez is healthy again, but the big surprise is the bullpen, especially the rapid evolution of Tyler Thornburg and Will Smith, not to mention the effective Loogy-ness of Zach Duke, and then there’s the K-Rod who hasn’t given up an earned run.
The pitching brought the Brewers to 15-5 and that same pitching will guide the ship going forward.