The calendar has turned to March, which is the same month of Opening Day. Spring Training is in full swing and it’s time to look forward to the Padres schedule and preview upcoming key matchups.
The Padres will play the AL East this season in interleague play, which brings a ton of intrigue. Of course, the Padres are going to field a much more exciting team in 2019, one worthy of a full house at Petco Park. If you haven’t decided what games to attend yet, perhaps I can be of assistance as we look into the top five road and home series on the 2019 schedule.
May 24-26 at Toronto Blue Jays
The Padres have not been north of the border since 2016 when they lost a three-game series in July to the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are projected to be a poor team this year, at 75-87, three games worse than where the projections have the Padres. This series has extra intrigue because more likely than not, baseball’s top prospect according to many, Vlad Guerrero Jr., will be in the major leagues by then.
He and Fernando Tatis Jr. have had a fierce battle for the spotlight among prospects the past year. By then, Tatis could also be a major leaguer, making this one of the more intriguing series that week anywhere in baseball. In fact, I would argue, if they are both fresh major leaguers by then, this is a solid candidate for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.
Padres pitching also needs to be wary of former All-Star first baseman Justin Smoak, who led the team last season with 25 home runs and a 121 wRC+.
The Padres may face their old pal Clayton Richard, who was traded to Toronto in December. The Blue Jays are paying for the final year of his two-year deal he signed with San Diego before last season. Speaking of pitchers, Marcus Stroman is still, much to his chagrin, a part of the Blue Jays rotation. He has mildly been part of rumors in a possible trade with the Padres, who need MLB-caliber starting pitching to make any noise in 2019. Will he be donning Padres’ threads by then?
May 27-29 at New York Yankees
The series after Toronto, the Padres head south to Yankee Stadium. Surprisingly, this will be San Diego’s first trip to the new Yankee Stadium, as they have not played in the Bronx since 2008, the final season of old Yankee Stadium. The Padres and Yankees, of course, have a brief history thanks to the 1998 World Series, where the Yanks swept the Friars in four games. That was one of the best single-season teams in baseball history.
The Yankees have plenty of firepower the Padres will have to deal with. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge combined for 65 home runs last year and many were “disappointed.” Stanton and Judge are both just two seasons removed from 50-homer years. With how many lefties the Padres have in their pitching staff, the Friars need to tread carefully with those two.
It doesn’t stop there as the Yankees have plenty of young talent, like the Padres. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are two of the best young infielders in the game and they are just getting started. This is a dangerous lineup that could take the Yankees very deep into October.
The Yankees have World Series aspirations, which is why they also bolstered their pitching with the likes of James Paxton in the rotation and Adam Ottovino and Zach Britton in the bullpen, making it about as deep a bullpen as there is in all of baseball.
Plus, Manny Machado will get yet another chance to mash at Yankee Stadium, where he hits .289 with eight homers and a .821 OPS. The Yankees are the team Machado has victimized the most, with 22 career home runs. He is very familiar with the AL East teams the Padres are scheduled to face this season.
June 25-26 at Baltimore Orioles
A third AL East team makes the list, but this is the most obvious. It will be a homecoming for Manny Machado, one which should be warmly received by the Baltimore faithful. Machado did a lot for that team, leading them to an AL East championship in 2014 and another playoff appearance in 2016 among some really down years for the O’s. This will be the Padres’ first visit since 2016 when they split two games.
That franchise is in a dark place right now, projected to be the worst team in the American League. The fans do not have very much to look forward to in 2019, which is why most fans will circle this series on their calendar. Machado has played 427 games at Camden Yards, with 99 home runs, a .296 average and a .888 OPS. How perfect will it be when he hits number 100 in Baltimore as a Padre?
Although the Orioles are going to struggle, they are not without recognizable names in the lineup. Chris Davis had an abysmal year last year, but can still hit balls a long way. Trey Mancini has hit 24 home runs in back-to-back seasons.
July 4-7 at Los Angeles Dodgers
What goes better together than the Fourth of July and baseball? The Padres take a quick trip up north to battle the hated Dodgers, Manny Machado’s former team, however brief it was. The Dodgers are the two-time defending National League champs and look to be a force again this season. They have a stacked lineup and a solid starting rotation, complemented by one of the best closers in the game.
Corey Seager will be back and healthy. If he is anything like his 2016-2017 self (he averaged a .302 average, 24 HR and a 132 wRC+), he will be a problem for the Padres. Max Muncy had an enormous season out of nowhere, mashing 35 dingers after totaling five in his previous 96 career games. Clayton Kershaw may not be himself anymore but he is still a Hall of Famer walking. Walker Buehler may be the better pitcher now and that’s scary. He had a 2.62 ERA in 24 games last year.
Machado hit 13 home runs with a 121 wRC+ in 66 games for L.A. last season. San Diego was 5-14 against the Dodgers last season and this is the perfect year to let them know that the Friars will be doormats no longer. Putting up a good showing during a prime baseball holiday weekend would make quite a statement.
August 6-7 at Seattle Mariners
The Vedder Cup returns for another season after the Padres convincingly won it last year, four games to none. They will play four times again this year, two in San Diego in April and then these two in August in Seattle. The Spring Training co-tenants usually play every season and routinely have interesting games. The Mariners will look quite different this season after an off-season overhaul.
Mitch Haniger is the best hitter in the lineup, after hitting 26 home runs with a 138 wRC+ and earning an All-Star bid last season. For now, the Mariners also have Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup, despite trade rumors swirling. He is still a power threat as he has an active streak of seven consecutive 30-homer seasons. Dee Gordon is always a problem on the basepaths as well.
Felix Hernandez is still in Seattle but is fading fast. He is a league-average pitcher at best at this point. Seattle acquired Japanese phenom Yusei Kikuchi, who looks to be a staple in this rotation for years to come. In eight seasons in the Japan Pacific League, he had a 2.81 ERA and in 2017, he struck out 217.
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