LOS ANGELES — Earlier this week, after the Padres played their first game with a repaired roster, manager Bob Melvin was asked if the recent increase in the trade deadline had altered his team’s expectations.
Two files laughed. It was obvious, wasn’t it? Another manager might have been surprised by this fact. But Melvin is a straight shooter, and naturally Expectations have changed in San Diego.
“Yes,” Melvin admitted with a laugh. “I mean, we had high expectations, regardless. But when you bring in players like that, sure.”
These expectations will not come true in one night. As such, they wouldn’t deviate in one night either.
But on a Friday in Los Angeles, the Padres family was starkly reminded of the task at hand. The Dodgers have been in the NFL for the past decade. It will take some time to bring them down.
In the first game of the Sunflower Test series that Padres so earnestly expected, the Dodgers shocked them, 8-1 — a game that ended, for all intents and purposes, in the third inning.
“I didn’t feel good,” said coach Bob Melvin. “We wanted to go out and collect some good bats early on, and squeeze them. It just happened in reverse. You just have to put it away.”
To be fair, this was, on paper, a bit of a mismatch. The Dodgers turned to Tony Gonsulin, who was their best starting player this season. The Padres switched to Sean Manaea, at this point, their number was 5.
Maneh took a heavy hit, allowing eight runs in four runs. Four runs were allowed in the first and four in the third. Members of the Padres family – who played their ninth game in eight days – asked Al-Mannai to wear them. Trapped bulls need turns.
“Just calm everything down – I didn’t really do that,” Mana said. “I think I made it bigger than it should have been. Things quickly got out of hand.”
This was the second time in three starts that Mannai had ceded at least eight runs. A useful off-season possession, Manaea’s presence helped boost Badres’ deep rotation. He had a 3.92 ERA through June. That number has since jumped to 4.74.
“No one feels it worse than he does,” Melvin said. “He wants to be there for his team. This is the first game in a big streak, he doesn’t have his best and definitely not his best position. I think he is at a point in time in his career where he will be able to put this away and work towards his next start.”
Despite Manaea’s recent struggles, the Padres weren’t looking to change their rotation ahead of this weekend’s series against rival Dodgers. As if to reinforce the point that this was just one game in early August, Mane Machado started the night as the designated hitter. Now that the Padres have beefed up the versatility of their roster, they want Machado to have a few nights like this as a hold off on his weak left ankle.
However, there are downsides to this big picture strategy. Padres credited Brandon Drury for his racket and for its topical versatility. But he’s defensively, well, not Mane Machado. On a pair of first-half players, Drury threw one away and missed. It’s safe to guess that Machado, a two-time Gold Glover and one of the best defensive players of his generation, may have helped limit damage.
Instead, Padres’ side found themselves facing an early four-round deficit, a gap they never really made out. All in all, it was a decidedly poor showing in their first match against the Dodgers since deadline. San Diego feels as if it has narrowed the gap dramatically with the acquisitions of Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader and Drury. For at least one night she did not show up.
In his first encounter, Soto — who was celebrated here three weeks ago at the All-Star Game and again two weeks ago when the citizens came to town — was booed by the same fans who once cheered in the hope that the grounds in Los Angeles would respond. Soto lining a 108.5 mph rocket in the middle. Padres threatened in the first inning, forcing Gonsolin to throw 30 throws. But they came empty, and the dodgers immediately opened the gates.
With that, Los Angeles grew its lead in the NL West to 13 1/2 games. This race is practically over. But the Padres didn’t quite literally go by the deadline because they thought they would win the West in 2022. They have bigger expectations than that, expectations that won’t deviate from their course on an ugly night at Dodger Stadium.
“We’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll play better baseball,” said left quarterback Jurickson Profar. “We have a good team.”
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