Two teams taking different approaches to the final week of the regular season meet again Tuesday night when the visiting San Diego Padres continue a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants (78-79) moved a game ahead of the Padres (77-80) in the National League wild-card chase with a come-from-behind, 2-1 triumph in the series opener Monday night.
San Francisco ended the night 4 1/2 games out of the final NL wild-card spot with five games remaining. The best San Diego, which is 5 1/2 back, can do at this point is tie for the final spot. The Padres entered the Monday contest having won nine of their past 10 games.
While both teams battled as if they were opening postseason play, the Giants took a youthful approach to Monday's game, starting a 24-year-old catcher (Patrick Bailey), a 22-year-old shortstop (Marco Luciano), a 25-year-old third baseman (Tyler Fitzgerald), a 21-year-old left fielder (Luis Matos) and a 23-year-old right fielder (Heliot Ramos).
Meanwhile, the Padres countered with all of their battle-tested big guns, starting at the top of the lineup with shortstop Xander Bogaerts, right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr., left fielder Juan Soto and designated hitter Manny Machado.
The San Diego core four combined for seven hits, but it was Luciano's double that set the stage for Michael Conforto's two-run single in the eighth inning that flipped a 1-0 Giants deficit into a 2-1 lead.
Luciano raised his batting average to .333 (9-for-33) by collecting his third major league double while playing his ninth game. He went 1-for-2 with two walks on Monday.
"That's what I've done my whole career," Luciano said of his high average. "What I like to do in the batter's box is make good contact and have good results."
The rookie will take his hacks on Tuesday against Padres right-hander Seth Lugo (7-7, 3.79 ERA). The 33-year-old veteran has helped lead San Diego's late-season surge by pitching well in his past seven starts, going 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA.
The Padres won five of the seven games, including a 4-0 home victory over the Giants on Sept. 3 in which Lugo threw six innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits. Luciano did not play in that game.
The 33-year-old has gone 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 15 career head-to-heads, including four starts, against the Giants.
Consistent with the rest of their lineup, the Giants will go the youth route on the mound Tuesday when they turn to Kyle Harrison (1-1, 4.85 ERA).
The 22-year-old left-hander will attempt to remain unbeaten at home, having gone 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA over the first three Oracle Park starts of his career.
He will be facing the Padres for a second time, having been bombed for six runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 6-1 road loss on Sept. 2.
Harrison likely will see all of the Padres' heavy hitters again, including Soto, who believes the club's fast finish could help convince management to give the talented group another shot in 2024.
"I would say it's good for us," Soto said of the club's improved play of late. "We found our path. It's going to be good for next year. We're going to try to start in the same spot. Try to finish hot, then try to start hot next year."
--Field Level Media
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