San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
- San Diego downed Arizona 8-7 on Opening Day; Game 2 from Petco Park is slated for 10:10 pm EST on Friday
- Blake Snell makes his Padres debut, while the Diamondbacks counter with Merrill Kelly
- See the odds, spread and our picks below
Opening Day of the 2021 MLB season turned out to be an unlikely slugfest between the Diamondbacks and Padres.
The two teams combined for six home runs and four lead changes in a wild game that the Padres ultimately won. Neither Madison Bumgarner or Yu Darvish made it past the fifth inning, as both starters were roughed up.
Now Arizona will turn to Merrill Kelly, while San Diego counters with Blake Snell in his Friars’ debut in hopes of a tamer encore.
Diamondbacks vs Padres Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Runline at DraftKings||Total|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||+205||+1.5 (-105)||Over 8.0 (-118)|
|San Diego Padres||-245||-1.5 (-114)||Under 8.0 (-104)|
Odds as of April 1st
Despite trailing twice on Thursday afternoon, the Diamondbacks vs Padres odds saw San Diego open as heavy favorites.
That’s likely because the pitching matchup heavily favors the home side. The acquisition of Blake Snell underscored San Diego’s need to upgrade their starting rotation in the off-season, bulking up the front end.
But while the Padres can trot out a seemingly sure thing in the former Cy Young winner, there’s a little more mystery surrounding the man on the mound for Arizona.
Merrill Kelly: Late Bloomer
Despite the fact that he was drafted three times and didn’t make his Major League debut until he was 30-years old, Merrill Kelly was Arizona’s second-best pitcher in 2020. Which is saying something considering his struggles in 2019.
In a shortened 2020, Kelly turned in a 3-2 record over five starts with a pristine 2.59 ERA. His FIP dropped from 4.51 to 3.99, he struck out more batters, and cut down on the walks.
Padres Stats vs Merrill Kelly
|Fernando Tatis Jr||11||5||3||5||3||.455|
Kelly has struggled containing Pham, Tatis and Hosmer, who was especially devastating on Thursday going 3-for-4 with three RBI. But Kelly’s been mostly successful when facing the D’Backs NL West rivals. In 2019 he was 3-1 in five starts with a 3.71 ERA in 26.2 innings. In 2020 he faced them twice, going 2-0 giving up one run, walking two, and striking out 11 in 12.2 innings of work.
There is one big question facing Kelly however, and that’s his recovery from thoracic outlet surgery that he underwent in September. Not as common as Tommy John surgery, some pitchers have recovered, while many more have seen their careers derailed.
Fun with numbers: The D-backs planned Opening Week rotation of MadBum, Merrill Kelly, Caleb Smith, Taylor Widener and Luke Weaver has a combined 6.87 ERA this spring.
I know spring training stats don’t matter but … yeah.
— David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) March 29, 2021
Kelly started five games in Spring Training this year, going 0-2 with a 5.30 ERA. His final two outings saw him surrender two combined runs over 9.2 innings, striking out nine.
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Snell Set for San Diego Debut
The minute Blake Snell was curiously pulled in Game 6 of the World Series, it seemed his time in Tampa Bay was coming to an end.
Enter the Padres, desperate for pitching help so that they can capitalize on their core’s prime. Even without the addition of Darvish, Snell adds immediate legitimacy to San Diego’s rotation, with an award-winning pedigree from his time in the AL.
Diamondbacks Stats vs Blake Snell
Not surprisingly, there’s not a lot of history here with Snell spending the first part of his career on the East coast. In fact, he’s made just one start against Arizona in his career. Snell has been especially devastating the last three seasons, averaging a 11.6 K/9.
.@AJCassavell asked Blake Snell a question about not allowing any runs this spring but Blake wasn’t having any of it: pic.twitter.com/9ZhDq1oqKC
— 97.3 The Fan (@973TheFanSD) March 27, 2021
In 2020 however, the Diamondbacks recorded the third-fewest strikeouts in baseball, averaging just 7.68 per game.
Snakes Could Struggle Against Snell
Despite keeping the K’s under control, Arizona will likely struggle to generate positive momentum against Snell.
Snell comes into this season with something to prove, and was untouchable in Spring Training, allowing five hits and no runs over 14 innings. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of approach Arizona takes with Kelly.
It could mean another bullpen-heavy game, which should see the Friar’s give Snell a cushion to work with that he won’t relinquish.
The Pick: San Diego -1.5 (-114)
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Bryan has spent the last decade working in the sports industry. He can be found conducting sideline interviews for SKY Sports and gathering post-match reactions for BBC. The sportcaster’s broadcasts stream on CBC Sports, Game TV, and Premier TV in the UK.