Back in June 2016, a much different Miami Marlins team beefed up their bullpen with a trade for 39-year-old journeyman reliever Fernando Rodney. Rodney would play out the rest of the season with the Fish, posting a 5.89 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP over 36.2 innings as Miami finished 15.5 games out of first place. All Rodney’s contributions cost the Marlins was one of the best rookie pitchers in the game today, and they got to see their mistake firsthand when they lost 3–2 to Chris Paddack and the Padres on Wednesday night.
Starting on 10 days’ rest, the heavily preserved San Diego starter pitched into the eighth inning for the second time this season, going 7.2 with eight Ks and just the one walk. His lone real blemish—a home run surrendered to Starlin Castro—came at the tail end of his night, and for those first seven innings Paddack was flirting with the first no-hitter in Padres history. Paddack, already known as a pit bull of a competitor, seemed to glean some extra motivation from going up against a franchise that had undervalued him so dramatically.
“I kind of had a chip on my shoulder coming into the game,” Paddack said. “This was the team that drafted me. This was where it all started.”
Though the Marlins, admittedly, aren’t the most intimidating lineup in the league, Paddack dominated them with a simple yet effective mix of low breaking change-ups and high fastballs. It was a bit of a return to form for a guy who’s seen his appearances become more sporadic the past couple of months after a blistering start, due to an innings limit. On the same day that presumptive NL Rookie of the Year winner Pete Alonso hit a 474-foot dinger—his 31st of the year—Paddack showed why he and his 0.87 WHIP should still be in the conversation for that award as well.
Paddack equaled his previous career high by pitching his 90th inning of the season on Wednesday, and for a 46-49 Padres team fading from the playoff picture, it seems unlikely that he’s got more than seven or eight more starts left in him. Still, even if he sticks to a cautious regimen, Paddack is far and away the best, most exciting starter the Padres have got, and at full health and stamina, he can look near-unbeatable. Those three months without Fernando Rodney sure were worth it.