The Padres have been playing surprisingly well of late, but John Baker's reaction to their success is a little much. (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)
The Padres looked poised to sweep the Pirates and extend their winning streak to seven games. Instead, the pitching collapsed, the Pirates scored nine runs in the bottom of the fourth, and the Padres could never recover. But, despite the loss the Padres took two out of three from the Bucs, three out of three from the Cubs, and two out of three from the Mets. That's a pretty productive nine game stretch. In fact, the entire second half of this season has been productive. If the season started after the All-Star break, the Padres would be in first place.
With San Diego playing some good baseball, they head into Atlanta looking to continue their role as the Ruiners. The Braves are slotted in the number one Wild Card spot right now. They are four backs behind the NL East-leading Nationals. The Padres have a chance to put the hurt on the Atlanta if they can win the series.
Chase Headley will be taking his hot-hitting ways to Turner Field where he has struggled in his career. In nine games, he has hit just .250. Something's got to give. The rest of the Padres offense should be riding high. They scored 19 runs in three games against Pittsburgh. They clubbed five home runs in the 'Burgh as well. They're hitting well. Now, let's hope the pitching can step up - they gave up 20 runs in the three game set against the Pirates.
Game One - 4:10 PM PT
Eric Stults vs. Mark Minor
Stults might actually get to pitch this series after my Pirates series preview was ruined by the Padres and their inaccurate probable pitchers. Who would have thought probable doesn't mean exact? Anyway, Stults still has all of those things I talked about in the Pirates series going for/against him, just check back there. Not good enough? Ok, here's a fun split: When Stults throws to John Baker (14 innings), he has a 5.14 ERA. When he tosses to the recently-returned Nick Hundley (11 2/3 innings), he has a 1.54 ERA. Again we're working with sample sizes that are far too small from which to draw conclusions, but we can do so anyway - and that conclusion is to keep sitting Hundley (not what you thought I was going to say, huh?). Baker has done a decent job filling in full time for Yasmani Grandal. But the value lies in his ability to handle his pitchers. The Padres have been pitching surprisingly well under Baker. In four of the last seven games Baker has caught, Padres pitchers have allowed three runs or fewer. But back to Stults. Given some more innings with Baker, he will surely see more success.
Mark Minor is one of those home-grown pitchers in the Braves organization. Minor was drafted 7th overall in the 2009 draft by the Braves. He made his Major League debut just a year later. At 24 years old, he's still figuring things out, but he's been far from the dominant pitcher the Braves are used to. Minor has started just one game against the Padres. He pitched six innings and gave up three runs. He took the loss in that game, but again, this is too Minor a sample size (see what I did there?). He's been solid at Turner Field, though. In 21 starts (22 games overall), Minor has a 3.82 ERA at home with the Braves. The good thing for the Padres is they're getting Minor in a down year. His K/9 are the lowest of his career (7.57), and for all those "he's just pitching to contact" people, his BB/9 are the highest of his career (3.35).
Game Two - 4:10 PM PT
I need to stop making jokes about Richard's loss totals and his relative mediocrity over his career with the Padres. He's been GOOD of late. In August, Richard has pitched two games for a total of 16 innings. He's given up exactly one run and walked only four. His ERA is at the a point past just respectable. It's becoming darn right impressive at 3.79. Of course, Richard is using the benefit of Petco Park to lower his ERA. At home, he's posted a 3.05 ERA. On the road, it jumps to 4.45. I'd love to give you a split for Richard's starts at Turner Field except he's never started at Turner Field. Here's to first times. Instead, I'll give you some other useless split. Richard is best in the third inning this year, posting just a 1.12 ERA in 24 third innings combined.
Tim Hudson is looking like his old self again this year. In Oakland, Hudson was one of the best in the game. He was a Billy Beane darling. Hudson was drafted by the A's int eh sixth round of the 1997 draft. He went on to be a two-time All-Star with the A's and post a 3.30 ERA. When the A's could no longer control him (this was apparently before teams believed in signing long-term, team-friendly extensions), he was traded to the Braves for three dudes you've never heard of. He's had just one All-Star appearance in his Braves years and has a career ERA of 3.53 in Atlanta. However, Hudson's posted an 11-4 record, which means almost nothing. But it gets him props in the casual baseball world. And I know you're all more than casual fans, we have a more serious relationship than that, right? While Hudson's ERA of 3.77 this year is decent, it actually represents a second consecutive year of increased ERA.
Game Three - 4:10 PM PT
Volquez is not a good pitcher.*
*I do not really think this, but ever since I started lavishing him with praise, he's struggled. Therefore, my reverse psychology will surely work things out.
Seriously, Volquez has had a rough go of it over his last several starts. On July 24th, Volquez's ERA had hit a season-low 3.30. In each of his next three starts, it has crept up and now sits at an unsightly 4.03. In his last start, Volquez could not find the plate. And when he did, his pitches were hammered. He gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings against Pittsburgh. He also got shelled against the Mets. He pithed just 1 2/3 innings and allowed four runs. He leads the league in walks this season with 84 free passes allowed.
Paul Maholm almost became a Padre at one point, but thank goodness they didn't get him. Maholm has been mediocre at best in his career. He has a career 4.27 ERA, he's only posted one year with an ERA under 3.50, and he's 30-years old making over $6 million per season. That's just too much money for the Padres to pay a player with those types of numbers. Maholm has thrown 33 innings against the Padres and has posted a 4.86 ERA. Somehow, though, he hasn't given up a home run to the Padres. That could change with the way Headley is swinging the bat.
Game Four - 4:10 PM PT (Nice try fourth game, you didn't slip past me this time)
Jason Maquis vs. TBD (or maybe it's Kris Medlen)
Marquis is coming off one of the best pitching performances of his career. He carried a non-hitter into the seventh inning of his start against the Pirates and ultimately finished with a complete game, two hit, shutout. It was a gem. Marquis should be very familiar with the Braves. They are the team that drafted him back in 1996. He spent four years with the Braves and posted a 4.45 ERA. Unfortunately, all that time spent in the Braves organization has not helped him figure out how to pitch against them. He owns a 7.27 ERA in 43 1/3 innings against Atlanta. But all that is in the past. This is a different year for Marquis - maybe a special year. Forgetting about his struggles in Minnesota, Marquis has a 3.66 ERA with the Padres. So far, that's the lowest ERA he's posted with one team in his career. Keep it rolling, Marquis. You could be this year's Aaron Harang or Jon Garland. I think they actually have a trophy for "Best Comeback by a Veteran Pitcher Who Came to San Diego With Nothing to Lose." It's a shiny.
According to MLB.com the Braves haven't announced their game four starter yet, so I'm left to guess. And we all know how well that goes. However, our trusty friends at ESPN suggest that Kris Medlen will be getting the start. Is it possible to be scooped on a probable starting pitcher? Come on MLB.com. Medlen is a reliever-turned-starter. He has played in 41 games but started just three of them. The starting gig seems to suit him, though. In those three starts, Medlen has given up a total of three runs. In his career, Medlen has started 21 games. He has an 8-2 record and an ERA of 3.93 in those starts. Against the Padres, Medlen seems to struggle. He's appeared in four games, but made it through 3 1/3 innings. In those 3 1/3 innings, he has given up three runs.
I'm feeling good about my predictions of late. Three straight sweep predictions and look at how close the Padres came. They've won seven of nine in the three series' in which I predicted a sweep - that's like a .778 winning percentage! The Braves took two of three from the Mets and came dangerously close to coming back last night and sweeping the series. They're playing well, and so are the Padres. That should make for a close series, but I am going out on a limb here. I am going with my fourth straight sweep prediction. The Padres will win all three, improve to 54-65, and challenge the fading DBacks for third place in the division. Let it be written, let it be done.
Keep the Faith!
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