After five straight series against teams with winning records — with four against division leaders at the time — the San Diego Padres look to get a schedule break Monday night with the first of three games against the sub-.500 Pittsburgh Pirates.
But looks can be deceiving.
When these teams met last month in Pittsburgh, the Pirates played to a draw in a four-game series.
And while the Pirates will have a proven starter Monday night in left-hander Tyler Anderson (2-2, 3.38 ERA), the Padres will go with right-hander Miguel Diaz, who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since before the 2019 All-Star break and hasn’t started a game since 2017.
Beyond Monday, which quickly could develop into a bullpen game, Padres manager Jayce Tingler said he has no idea who will start Tuesday.
“We have three questionable starters right now,” Tingler said Sunday afternoon after the Padres lost 7-1 to the San Francisco Giants to snap a three-game winning streak. “Both Dinelson Lamet (currently on the injured list with an elbow issue) and Ryan Weathers (who departed his most recent start on April 28 with ‘tightness’) felt good after throwing bullpens Sunday. We’ll see how they feel tomorrow.”
With right-hander Chris Paddack also on the injured list due to an unspecified medical issue, the Padres are down to three healthy starters — Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, who worked in succession the past three games.
The 26-year-old Diaz once was considered a rising star in the Padres’ system. He was an organizational All-Star in 2018 after spending 2017 on the major-league roster as a Rule 5 retainee. He was also a rising star from the 2018 Arizona Fall League. In his first four major-league appearances in 2017, the 6-foot, 224-pound Diaz didn’t allow a runner to reach base.
But his 2019 season ended early due to surgery on his right knee, and he wasn’t added to the expanded 60-man roster in 2020. He had a 7.50 ERA in five spring training appearances this year before remaining at the alternate training site in Arizona.
Diaz’s big-league career totals 47 appearances (three starts) and a 6.62 career ERA, with opposing hitters batting .268 against him. In 66 2/3 innings, he has given up 51 runs (49 earned) on 69 hits and 38 walks with 67 strikeouts. He has never faced the Pirates.
One of Anderson’s two wins this season came against the Padres on April 14, when he held San Diego to a run on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.
Anderson and the Padres are not strangers. The 6-foot-2 31-year-old spent five seasons in the National League West with Colorado and San Francisco before signing with the Pirates last winter. He has a 4-2 career record against the Padres, with a 2.53 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts).
Overall this season, Anderson has allowed 10 runs on 25 hits and eight walks with 26 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings over five starts. But in his past three starts, Anderson has a 2.20 ERA over 16 1/3 innings. He held a heavily right-handed Kansas City lineup to a run on three hits over six innings in his most recent outing.
“We knew he had the ability to do this,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of Anderson after game against the Royals. “It’s why we signed him. The changeup is a good weapon against right-handed hitters. He was very impressive.”
–Field Level Media