With the 2014 regular season less than a week away, on-field performance holds a little more weight than it did just a few weeks ago.
No more does the “He’s still knocking the rust off” excuse work for offensive struggles, nor does the “He wasn’t worried about results, he was just trying to build up arm strength” excuse work for a pitcher’s struggles. Because the season is so close, what we’re seeing from players this week is basically a dress-rehearsal for the regular season.
With that being said, the San Diego Padres first-inning outburst against Kansas City Royals ace James Shields in the team’s 9-5 victory on Wednesday spoke volumes in terms of what this offense is capable of doing as a collective group.
Everth Cabrera led off the first inning with a walk, followed by a Will Venable double that moved Cabrera to third. Cabrera would then score on a Chase Headley ground out — 1-0 Padres. Jedd Gyorko would follow with a double that plated Venable — 2-0 Padres. Yonder Alonso then stepped to the plate and singled, scoring Gyorko — 3-0 Padres.
Tommy Medica would then reach after getting hit by a pitch, leaving two on for Alexi Amarista, who would single in Alonso — 4-0 Padres. Nick Hundley got in on the action next with an RBI single that plated Medica — 5-0 Padres. Amarista would score next on an Ian Kennedy sacrifice bunt, giving the Padres a 6-0 lead. Batting for the second time in the inning was Cabrera, and he would promptly drive in Hundley with a single — now 7-0 Padres.
Venable would then end the first inning party with a ground out, but boy what a party it was. The first-inning party included 11 batters sent to the plate, with seven runs scored on six hits.
The performance was significant for a multitude of reasons. One reason is because it all happened against one of the most respected pitchers in baseball, a pitcher who is as regular season ready as he’s going to get at this point. Secondly, the Padres fielded a lineup that consisted of players who are all expected to have a significant role in the regular season, and they all looked regular season ready.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if the Padres can just stay healthy in 2014, they will be a competitive team. If nobody else believes that, I can assure you that Shields and his Royals teammates do after Wednesday’s performance.