Nearly a quarter of the way into the 2022 season, the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants have the same problem -- the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Giants and Padres own two of the best five records in the National League. But when they meet in San Francisco this week, one of the two will almost assuredly lose ground to the National League West-leading Dodgers, who are winning at a clip slightly better than two of every three games.
The series is particularly important for the Giants, who are already hosting the Padres for the second time this season. When San Diego leaves Oracle Park on Sunday, the N.L. West chasers will have 13 games remaining against each other in 2022. And 10 of those will be played in San Diego.
The Giants won two of the three when the Padres last visited April 11-13 -- which was also the last time the Padres opened a series against a team with a winning record.
The Padres are 14-7 on the road this year and are 5-1-1 in their seven road series to date.
"We'd love to continue that in an important series in San Francisco," acting manager Ryan Christenson said Thursday afternoon after the Padres scored two shutout wins in a three-game set in Philadelphia. Christenson has been serving as the Padres acting manager as Bob Melvin recuperates from prostate surgery. Melvin could rejoin the Padres in San Francisco.
This series opens Friday night with left-hander Sean Manaea (2-3, 3.77 ERA in seven starts) pitching for the Padres against Giants right-hander Jakob Junis (1-1, 1.79 in four games, two starts). Both pitchers joined their respective teams this spring.
Junis, 29, signed with the Giants as a free agent in March after spending his entire career with the Royals, with whom he went 29-35 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.353 WHIP in 105 games (89 starts) over five seasons. He faced the Padres once before in 2017, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk with six strikeouts in seven innings in a win.
Junis started the season with the Giants' Triple-A team in Sacramento. In 20 2/3 innings with the Giants, Junis has given up four runs on 16 hits and four walks with 18 strikeouts. A revamped and sharper slider was his ticket back to the big leagues.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler said back-to-back, sharp outings against the Cardinals (four runs in 10 2/3 innings) has earned Junis a spot in the rotation.
"He gave us a chance to win the game," Kapler said of Junis after a 4-0 loss to the Cardinals last Saturday.
Junis reflected on his latest start with a positive feeling.
"I'm pretty happy, especially facing the same team twice," said Junis, who made his last start without his changeup. "I rolled with what I had."
The Padres acquired Manaea from the Oakland A's on April 3 along with minor league pitcher Aaron Holiday for minor league prospects Euribiel Angeles and Adrian Martinez.
Manaea faced the Giants earlier in the season and gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings in a 2-1 loss. Manaea has pitched six or more innings in six of his seven starts with six quality starts. He has a 1.116 WHIP with 50 strikeouts in 43 innings. He has been handcuffed by a lack of offense.
Manaea, who spent his first six seasons pitching across the bay from the Giants, has a 2-3 career record against San Francisco with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.163 WHIP in eight starts. He has given up 18 runs (13 earned) on 38 hits and 12 walks with 32 strikeouts in 43 innings.
--Field Level Media