With every passing day, Travis Jankowski looks more and more like a keeper.
Jankowski singled twice, stole a base and scored a run Friday night to help the San Diego Padres past the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2.
The young speedster has really taken hold of the leadoff position after manager Andy Green inserted him into the lineup and moved slumping outfielder Manny Margot down in the order.
Since April 30, Jankowski has batted .394 when he bats first.
He’s also a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts and rarely makes mistakes on defense when he patrols any of the three outfield positions.
He still needs to work on cutting down his strikeouts but even on a day like Thursday (when he struck out three times) he still reached base twice in five at-bats with a hit and a walk.
Jankowski enters the weekend with a .370 overall batting average this season and has at least one hit in all but one of the games he has started.
“If I can get on base, good things happen,” Jankowski said.
That’s not just a cliché. The Padres desperately need to improve their on-base percentage after struggling in that category the past two seasons.
Jankowski currently owns an OBP of .481 during his stint in the leadoff spot.
All other Padres that have led off this year have combined for a measly .230 OBP in addition to a paltry .164 combined batting average when hitting in that first position.
Eric Hosmer was moved back to the third spot in the order Friday and responded with a pair of doubles.
Hosmer scored the eventual game-winning run on an RBI single to left field by Franchy Cordero in the top of the sixth inning.
The former World Series champion also scored on a RBI groundout by Raffy Lopez in the fourth just a few moments after knocking in Jankowski on his first hit of the day.
Tyson Ross improved to 3-3 after allowing only two earned runs and five hits in six innings.
Cordero has generated some cringes with spotty play in the outfield this week but he did help preserve the lead.
Cordero helped out his starting pitcher by gliding over for a run-saving catch in the bottom of the sixth with two men on base.
Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen and closer Brad Hand combined to blank the rest of the Pirates lineup over the final three innings. Hand recorded the final four outs to finish off his 13th save.
Hosmer is expected to be with the Padres for many seasons after signing a gigantic 8-year, $144 million deal this off-season.
The franchise needs to figure out which current players should fill out the everyday lineup around their established star and if Jankowski can maintain this current pace, he should be in the team’s long-term plans despite the logjam of players in the current outfield.
San Diego and Pittsburgh head into Saturday’s contest with Clayton Richard (2-5, 5.20 ERA) and Nick Kingham (2-0, 2.92 ERA) as their projected starters.