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Padres third baseman Manny Machado posted a .374 batting average through the first 41 games of the season, second in franchise history only to Tony Gwynn’s .382 to start the 1994 season. Photo via Twitter
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From the start, Padres look like a different team

The Padres are a quarter in and we can’t wait to see what’s next either.

“We’re never out of it,” Padres pitcher Nick Martinez said. “I really believe that.”

Martinez was singing the Padres’ praises after Monday’s 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Milwaukee Brewers. It was yet another squeaker falling the Padres’ way, as they lead the majors in one-run victories and maybe thrills, too.

At 28-15 through Tuesday night, the Padres’ predicted slow start minus All-Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has gone the way of $4 gas. While Tatis mends, the Padres mine gold.

No one’s mettle is showing more than sizzling third baseman Manny Machado. With him needing to carry the team in Tatis’ absence, he’s done that and more.

In nearly every significant National League offensive category, Machado’s name is listed.

He’s even nudged alongside the most sacred name in Padres history, Tony Gwynn. Machado’s .374 average through the initial 41 games is eclipsed only by Gwynn’s .382 in 1994 in franchise history.

Padres manager Bob Melvin is new to these parts but he’s old enough to have managed against Machado. Melvin likes the view better sharing the same dugout as Machado.

“All I’m seeing is what I’ve seen all year,” Melvin said. “I’ve played against him on the other side and I had never seen him on an everyday basis. The pace he is playing at and the desire he is playing with rubs off on everybody. When the best player plays like that, everybody kind of has to fall in line and that makes my job easier.”

The Padres’ attack has often relied on Machado and first baseman Eric Hosmer. The lineup’s other seven spots have been spotty, which illustrates how keen the pitching and defense have been.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Melvin promised about other bats making noise.

There are numerous ways to prevail in games and dang if the Padres -— remember Trent Grisham’s key bunt on Monday — have tried most of them.

“We just find a way to win,” said Melvin, who returned recently from prostate surgery. “That’s a good trait to have.”

Good doesn’t describe the Padres’ embarrassment of riches with their starting pitching. It’s been effective and energetic, the rest of the club feeding of one stellar outing after another.

Righty Joe Musgrove of no-hit fame has been spot-on in his first eight starts, which have ended in Padres victories. He’s pitching his way to an eye-opening contract, if he becomes a free agent or sticks around.

Yu Darvish, another right-hander, had four wins and a sub-4.00 ERA in his first eight starts. Southpaw Sean Manaea was in the same ERA neighborhood as Darvish. Martinez, a right-hander, has jump-started his career and southpaw Blake Snell has chipped in.

Lefty MacKenzie Gore? Yes the team’s blue-chip prospect has contributed and he looks poised to add so much more.

“Everything’s starting to come together,” Gore said of his challenging journey to the majors. “I feel good.”

The Padres have been good and then some to keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

“We have a lot of good teams in our division,” Melvin said.

But at the quarter pole, it’s clear the Padres can play with anybody in the loaded National League West. They’ve done more than stay afloat until Tatis’ anticipated late-June return. Via a blast in some games and bunts in others. Or sharp base-running and stellar defense. Whatever and whenever, the Padres can defeat and deflate teams in various ways.

“We’re just trying to rack up as many games as we can,” Melvin said.

In billiards, racking it up means a fresh start. The Padres got one after last year’s disappointing finish and have flourished.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports

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