Padres host Diamondbacks as big decision looms

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Usually when Chris Paddack starts for the Padres, he is the No. 1 story.

But he will be only the third-best topic Saturday night as San Diego hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second game of a three-game series at Petco Park.

On Friday night, the Padres won the opener of their fifth straight series. However, they have lost their past two series and are 1-3 thus far in the second games of series.

“We’ve had good starts to series,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said Friday night after five Padres pitchers blanked the Diamondbacks 3-0. “We need to follow it up tomorrow.”

And perhaps even the bigger question is what to do with 26-year-old rookie Jake Cronenworth if first baseman Eric Hosmer comes off the injured list as planned Saturday.

Hosmer was off to a great start, going 5-for-10 with two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs in his first three games. But a case of gastritis forced Hosmer to miss two games before he landed on the 10-day injured list July 29.

In the past six games in Hosmer’s absence, Cronenworth has gone 8-for-21 with a double, two triples, two home runs, three RBIs and five runs scored for a .381 batting average, a .905 OPS and a 1.285 OPS. He has also played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first.

Tingler has several options. Cronenworth could stay at first and Hosmer could be the designated hitter . . . or vice versa. But Cronenworth is a middle infielder by trade. And second baseman Jurickson Profar is off to a 4-for-40 start, although he has drawn seven walks.

“We probably need to keep Cronenworth in the lineup,” Tingler said. “He’s going to continue to play as long as he plays good defense and is a tough out at the plate.”

So there are plenty of subplots Saturday as Paddack (2-0, 2.65 earned run average) makes his fourth start of the season against Arizona right-hander Merrill Kelly (1-1, 2.63 ERA).

Paddack faced the Diamondbacks and Madison Bumgarner in the season opener on July 24 at Petco Park. He recorded the win, holding the Diamondbacks scoreless on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts over six innings. In his first three starts, Paddack has given up five runs on 15 hits and one walk with 15 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Kelly did not face the Padres in the first series between the National League West rivals. But he did see them five times in 2019 as he returned to the United States after playing four seasons in Korea.

Overall, Kelly was 13-14 with a 4.42 ERA in 32 starts for the Diamondbacks in 2019. He was 3-1 with a 3.71 ERA in five starts against the Padres and held Arizona to a .232 batting average. He was 2-1 in three starts at Petco Park with a 4.30 ERA.

In his first two starts of 2020, Kelly has allowed four runs on 12 hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.

“It was a big boost to come back to the States from Korea last season and pitch as well as I did,” said the 6-foot-2, 31-year-old Kelly. “And that gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season.”

–Field Level Media

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