How Padres might set up rotation the rest of the season

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Padres picked the right time to enjoy some of the most dominant starting pitching they’ve gotten in years. Their four straight scoreless starts over the past week marked the first time San Diego had gotten four consecutive outings without a run from its starting pitchers since 1984.

“We just build off of each other,” said Blake Snell, who flirted with a no-hitter against St. Louis on Wednesday night. “We all see it. We all know how good we are, how capable we are to do it every night. That just kind of keeps us going and keeps us hungry and striving to be the best versions of ourselves.”

With 12 games left, Padres manager Bob Melvin acknowledged that the team has mapped out its pitching plans through the rest of the season. San Diego has also mapped out contingencies upon contingencies, depending on how the rest of the playoff race shakes out.

Here’s one guess as to how the Padres will align their starting pitching the rest of the way — including a potential Wild Card Series:

Sept. 23-25: at Rockies
Game 1: Sean Manaea
Game 2: Yu Darvish
Game 3: Mike Clevinger

Sept. 27-29: vs. Dodgers
Game 1: Blake Snell
Game 2: Joe Musgrove
Game 3: Yu Darvish

The first real decision comes next Thursday, for the final of this three-game set. Manaea would be in line to start that game, but he’s struggled for most of the second half, and he’s struggled mightily against the Dodgers in particular. However, by moving Darvish into that slot, the Padres would set themselves up nicely for the final week of the season. More on that later…

Sept. 30-Oct. 2: vs. White Sox
Game 1: Mike Clevinger
Game 2: Sean Manaea
Game 3: Blake Snell

Now you’ve got a tough call for the opener of the White Sox series. Clevinger is the preferable option to Manaea, generally speaking. But this would also line up Clevinger to pitch on four days’ rest for five of his final six starts. For a guy that’s battled injuries, would the Padres want to avoid pushing him so hard? I’d still go with Clevinger here, mostly so you can line him up for the season finale against the Giants.

Oct. 3-5: vs. Giants
Game 1: Joe Musgrove
Game 2: Yu Darvish (or Reiss Knehr)
Game 3: Mike Clevinger

Here’s where things get fun. You’ve now lined up Darvish to pitch the penultimate game of the season. The Padres will have extra incentive to clinch before then, because if they do, they can simply have Darvish throw a bullpen session that day, then pitch Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. But here’s what they’d accomplish by pushing Darvish up for that Dodgers series: If Darvish were to pitch Game 161 against the Giants in the final week, he’d still be available to pitch Game 3 of a potential Wild Card Series.

Oct. 7-9: Wild Card Series
Game 1: Yu Darvish
Game 2: Blake Snell
Game 3: Joe Musgrove

Given the way those three are pitching, that’s a formidable 1-2-3. Plus, the Padres would leave themselves some flexibility, too. If Darvish were to pitch Game 161, they could change to Snell/Musgrove/Darvish, in that order, for the Wild Card Series. All three would be on normal rest.

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