After sweeping the Giants yesterday, the Padres boarded a plane for a happy flight to Chicago, where they will face the Cubs in a four-game series starting tonight. Clayton Richard will take the mound for San Diego as he tries to rebound from his last outing. He missed his start in San Francisco on the 20th due to the flu, but felt like he had recovered enough to take on the Brewers last Tuesday. Unfortunately it didn't matter how well he felt, as he was roughed up for six runs in just 1 2/3 innings, marking the third time in his career he pitched less than two innings (the first time being with the White Sox and the second time due to a rain delay). But hopefully he can put that start behind him and have a successful outing against the Cubs, who he's dominated in the past. In two career starts against Chicago, Richard has gone 2-0, giving up a single run over 15 2/3 innings.
The Padres are on a four-game winning streak coming into this series. However, despite the record over those four games, the offense is still having some trouble. Batters have collected 34 hits, including nine doubles and four home runs, as well as 14 walks. However, they've also been struck out 35 times and have left 29 men on base. Pitching has been improving steadily lately, but the hitting still has a lot of room for improvement.
Hopefully they can show some of that improvement against today's opponent. The Cubs will send Jeff Samardzija to the hill to face Richard. He's made four appearances (two starts) against the Padres and posted a 2-1 record with an ERA of 2.20 in 16 1/3 total innings. He's pitched much better than his 1-4 record this season shows. Since beating the Pirates on Opening Day, Samadrzija has lost four straight, mainly due to a lack of run support. Two of those four losses were quality starts from the right-hander, but the offense was unable to match his effort. Most recently, Samardzija kept the Reds to just six hits and only one run (on a solo shot) while striking out eight in six innings of work last Wednesday. He was still tagged with the loss, however, as the Cubs failed to get on the board.
This has been an unfortunate trend for Chicago this year. Of the 15 quality starts made by pitchers this season, the Cubs have only won five of them, despite the pitchers posting a combined 1.98 ERA over those starts. However, like the Padres, the Cubs have shown some improvements lately. Over their past six games, they are 4-2 and have combined for 19 runs. Former Padre Anthony Rizzo has been a big contributing factor during those six games. He has a .951 OPS over that stretch, having hit two of the team's seven home runs and collected 5 RBI. A more recent former Padre, Cody Ransom, has also been helpful since joining the team. He's made three starts (all during that six game stretch) since joining the Cubs and has hit 4-for-9 with a home run during that time.