What to Expect When the Padres (Finally) Play in Front of Their Home Crowd

The Friars' opening road trip was the longest in baseball to start 2022

Only nine teams in baseball have yet to play a game at home. Only the Padres had to open with seven games in seven days on the road. Sure, that has more to do with the MLB Lockout than a scheduling oversight, but it's still a long time to have to wait to play in front of your own fans.

The home opener is gonna be rocking. The sellout crowd will be pretty excited, too.

On Thursday the Padres finally get to play in front of the Friar Faithful when they open a 4-game series against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves in a 5:10 start in the East Village. At 4-3 they can call it a successful road trip, although they certainly could (and perhaps even should) have had at least another win or two.

They had a 2-0 lead in the season opener in Arizona then gave up four runs in the 9th inning to let it get away. They were down 2-1 on Wednesday in San Francisco and loaded the bases in the 9th inning, only to have a Matt Beaty liner land foul by a few feet that would have likely won that game. Still, having a higher number in the win column than the loss column is better than the alternative.

"We'd like to try and sneak one more out but, you know, over .500 on the road, we get to finally go home and play in front of our crowd, so we're looking forward to that," says Padres skipper Bob Melvin.

Thursday will be the first time Melvin gets to manage the Friars at Petco Park. During his first week as San Diego's manager he said the atmosphere at the jewel of a Downtown yard was one of the most appealing things about the job. He saw the passion of the Padres fans during a trip down with the Oakland A's and is expecting that kind of energy to boost his club for a while (the Padres get the next 10 games at home).

NBC 7's Brooke Martell spoke to fans and business owners who are preparing for Thursday's long-awaited first pitch

Fittingly, Joe Musgrove gets the start against Atlanta. The Grossmont High School alum has already etched his name into San Diego's baseball lore. He threw the first no-hitter in franchise history. He started the first full-capacity game of 2021, the one that welcomed everyone back to Petco Park after a year and a half away due to the pandemic.

During Spring Training, Yu Darvish said he thought Musgrove had actually beaten him out to earn the honor of starting on Opening Day. Instead, Joe was the 3rd man out, but Melvin did that on purpose. He knew the schedule and wanted to give No-No Joe the start in the HOME opener.

The guy sandwiched between them has been pretty darn good. Sean Manaea, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland A's on Sunday before the season started, has thrown 13 innings and only allowed two runs. Manaea has been a Padre for 11 days and made two starts with San Diego on his jersey ... but has yet to BE IN San Diego.

NBC 7's Artie Ojeda is at Petco Park for FanFest.

He went right from Spring Training in Arizona to the Bay Area , where he was able to take a little time and pack up some stuff from his place. He's still using his green glove instead of switching to a Padres color (although with the way he's been throwing he might not want to change it).

While the pitching staff has been, aside from a hiccup on Tuesday night allowing 13 runs to the Giants, been extremely good the offense needs to do a little work. The bats have only hit four home runs in seven games, half of those coming from Jurickson Profar. It's probably overly simplistic to say the Padres are simply missing Fernando Tatis Jr. in the lineup.

But, maybe it's not.

In the history of baseball only four shortstops have hit 40 homers in a season and San Diego's superstar is one of them. You simply don't replace that kind of production. Ha-Seong Kim and super-prospect C.J. Abrams have been platooning in El Nino's absence. They've played fantastic defense but at the plate are a combined 3-for-24 with no RBI.

Mackenzie Gore got the nod for the Padres' Spring Training opener. NBC 7's Darnay Tripp has the story.

Both youngsters are going to get their share of hits but without Manny Machado, Luke Voit, Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, or Jake Cronenworth driving the ball out of the ballpark it's more difficult to overcome the loss of one of the game's most dynamic offensive weapons.

The good news is, it's only a week. Voit is learning a whole new league. Machado is usually a slow starter who eventually catches fire and stays hot for two months at a time. Cronenworth is as steady as they come. Melvin said it's far too early to worry about a lack of slugging, and he's right.

Perhaps a sold out crowd will be just the shot of electricity the bats need.

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