Ryan Weathers dominating the Dodgers is just what the Padres need

Padres pitchers Ryan Weathers, in his first month in the big leagues, shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup for the second time in six days.

Major League Baseball’s newest, most intense rivalry and the bright lights of Dodger Stadium against the defending World Series champions isn’t enough to faze Ryan Weathers.

Twice in the last six days, the San Diego Padres have thrust their 21-year-old left-hander in the middle of their quest to unseat the Dodgers as NL West champs. Weathers made his first career start last Friday against the Dodgers; he made his second on Thursday, going up against the champs yet again. It was a daunting task to give to someone with just four career regular-season appearances on his resume, but Weathers didn’t look bothered at all.

Weathers shut down the Dodgers vaunted lineup over 5.2 innings, limiting them to only one hit. Going back to his first start last week, Weathers has now pitched 7.2 consecutive innings against the Dodgers with the only hit he’s surrendered coming from the opposing pitcher, a single by Walker Buehler leading off the third inning.

Last Friday, in his first start, Weathers pitched 3.2 scoreless, one-hit innings against the Dodgers. He’s the first pitcher in MLB history to record at least 11 outs and give up only one hit in each of his first two career starts. Only one other pitcher, Freddy Peralta of the Brewers in 2018, ever had two such starts within his first five appearances.

Is this the sign of more good things to come from Ryan Weathers?

He’s only 21, but Weathers is pitching with the maturity of a seasoned veteran. He made his MLB debut last October in the postseason, against this same Dodgers lineup, and pitched 1.1 innings in relief. He’s now thrown 10.2 innings against the champs in his young career and has given up only two singles and no runs. He’s the youngest pitcher to give up only one hit while getting at least 17 outs at Dodger Stadium since the Reds’ Billy McCool did it on Aug. 21, 1964.

Add to it the pressure of the burgeoning Padres-Dodgers rivalry, and what Weathers has done over the last week would be incredible for even the most experienced pitcher, let alone someone who’s been in the big leagues for a month.

“You’ve just got to treat it like it’s any other game,” he told Bally Sports San Diego following the Padres 3-2 win on Thursday.

It’s the type of answer that belies his age, one that suggests he realizes one start in April, despite going against the Dodgers, won’t make or break his career. But he also displayed an understanding that, despite his calm and cool composure, this wasn’t just any other start.

“Obviously a lot more confidence. That lineup…is insane,” he said. “Every guy they send up there can absolutely swing the stick. So just going against them, and knowing that I’ve got to go against the best with my best stuff, is a lot of fun.”

Weathers seems almost born for these big moments. His father, David, played in the Majors for 19 years, including making 24 appearances on the same Dodger Stadium mound in his career. By the time he was six years old, Ryan was hanging out with Ken Griffey Jr. in the Reds clubhouse and catching fly balls during batting practice at Great American Ball Park. The big leagues may seem like a big stage for most pitchers, but Weathers has experienced it his entire life.

The Padres have now won two in a row against the Dodgers after dropping the first two of their 19-game schedule this season. They’ve climbed to within four games of the division lead in the still-young season. Their rotation, which has the second-lowest ERA in the league behind only the Brewers, has been beset by injures to Dinelson Lamet and Adrian Morejon, who had Tommy John surgery and forced the Padres to put Weathers in a starting role.

Yu Darvish and Blake Snell will take their turns facing the Dodgers lineup the next two days. Both of them are established veterans, with All-Star game appearances and Cy Young Award appearances on their resume. But they’ll be hard-pressed to match the performance of a 21-year-old rookie, fresh in the big leagues but already pitching like this is where he belongs.

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